Is Late Teething Really a Sign of Intelligence?

late teething sign of intelligence

During the first couple of years of your baby’s life, documenting the big milestones is important and fun for many parents. 

The first smile, when they start to crawl, taking those wobbly first steps, saying their first word… these are all significant and exciting moments as babies grow and develop. 

Another big moment is when your baby gets their first teeth. Most parents can expect their baby’s first tooth to come in around 6 months or so. When teeth erupt before 6 months, it’s considered early teething. If there are no baby teeth by 13 months of age, it’s considered delayed or late teething. 

Like all other milestones, when babies start teething and cut their first teeth can vary slightly, but 6 months is the average. Some people believe that late teething can be a sign of higher intelligence. But is that really true? Find out here. 


Is Delayed Teething a Sign of Intelligence? 

Babies are born with a full set of primary teeth below the surface of the gums. These teeth are generally referred to as “milk teeth” since the baby’s diet is usually just breast milk or formula during this time. Most babies keep that gummy smile for the first 6 months or so before symptoms of teething begin and the first tooth makes its debut. 

But what if your baby doesn’t cut their first tooth until after their first birthday? If you’re wondering if a delay in teething is a sign that you’re raising a genius, you might be disappointed. While there is a myth out there suggesting that delayed teething can be a sign of high intelligence, it’s really just that: a myth. 

Giftedness and higher IQ are associated with early, on-time, and late bloomers. While it’s been generally and widely accepted that babies who hit milestones early are more likely to have higher intelligence, there is plenty of data to suggest the same for late bloomers and children who develop at an average pace. 


What Age Do Children Typically Get Their First Tooth? 

6 months is the average age that babies will begin cutting teeth, but teething can begin anytime between 4 months to a year. Symptoms of teething will typically begin before the eruption of a tooth and once it breaks through the gum, the pain will subside. 

Throughout the teething process, there are many signs and symptoms to tell you when your baby is teething, including:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Increased chewing, biting, or sucking (aka, putting everything in their mouths!)
  • Redness, irritation, or a rash due to extra saliva on your baby’s chin or cheeks 
  • Red, swollen, or bulging gums
  • Changes in appetite
  • Teething blister or eruption cyst (buildup of fluid on the gums that usually goes away without treatment)


What Late Teething Could Actually Be a Sign of

While it might be tempting to believe that late teething could mean higher intelligence, there is simply no data to back this up. In fact, delayed teeth eruption can be a sign that something else is at play. It’s important to be aware of these things, as some can be potential complications and require evaluation. 

Sometimes, the reason why a baby’s teeth come in late is nothing more than heredity. Other times, it can signify something more serious. If you realize that your baby is teething later than their peers or later than the average, consider the following possibilities: 

  • Genetics: Late teething can run in families and be hereditary. If either parent or other relatives got their teeth late, it should come as no surprise if your baby is a late teether as well. This is the most common cause of teeth coming in late and is therefore nothing to worry about. 
  • Genetic conditions: In addition to a predisposition, there are several, specific genetic conditions that could be responsible for delayed teething. These include regional odontodysplasia, Cleidocranial dysostosis, Apert syndrome, Ellis-van Creveld syndrome, Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome, Zimmermann-Laband-1 syndrome, Down’s syndrome, and Axenfeld Rieger. 
  • Poor nutrition: Another reason for delayed tooth eruption is a lack of the right vitamins and minerals. If babies aren’t getting enough breast milk or the formula isn’t providing the right nutrients, it could lead to a deficiency that can affect when teeth come in. 
  • Developmental disorders: Hypothyroidism refers to a condition in which the thyroid is not producing adequate amounts of hormones for the body to function normally. Unproductive thyroid glands can influence many systems throughout the body, including metabolism, body regulation, and many aspects of development.  

Hypopituitarism is a pituitary gland condition where children could experience delayed growth and therefore, delayed teething. 

If you believe that your baby is suffering from this condition, it’s important to contact your pediatrician. 

  • Low birth weight or premature birth: Developmental delays can be expected when babies are born prematurely or with very low birth weight. Since the last months of the baby’s development will take place outside the womb, it can delay teething by several months. 

If none of these apply, it’s probably just a little quirk that you’ll laugh about and add to your little one’s baby book. If everything else is normal, then no intervention or treatment is required for delayed teeth eruption. In most cases, later-than-normal teething isn’t a problem, but in some cases, it can cause complications. 

Baby teeth are required for chewing solid food, important for language development, and set the stage for permanent teeth. In some cases, permanent teeth can appear at the same time as late baby teeth, leading to 2 rows of teeth, cramped mouth space, and the permanent teeth coming in crooked. Delayed teething can also lead to more cavities or tooth decay. 

The American Dental Association recommends that all children see a pediatric dentist when their first teeth come through or by the time they’re one year old. Lots of parents hold off on these initial appointments, but if you don’t see any teeth erupt by the time your child is 18 months old, it’s important to make an appointment.


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