Late Teething and the Fussy Eating Child

late teething and the fussy eating child 14
late teething and the fussy eating child

As a parent, it’s natural to worry when your child’s development doesn’t follow the expected timeline. One common concern is late teething, which can sometimes be linked to fussy eating difficulties. Understanding the causes of delayed teething, how it impacts your child’s eating skills, and practical strategies to support their development can make a significant difference.

When there are notable difficulties with chewing and speech development, a Speech Language Pathologist  (SLP) or a dentist can assess your child and further advise you.

Understanding Late Teething  

Typically, babies begin to get their first teeth around six months, with the full set of primary teeth emerging by age three. However, some children experience delayed tooth eruption, where their teeth come in later than expected. This delay can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Genetics: Family history often influences the timing of teething.

  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Lack of calcium, vitamin D, or general malnutrition can delay tooth eruption.

  • Premature Birth and Low Birth Weight: these conditions are associated with changes, as well as potential sensory sensitivities, in overall development.

  • Health Conditions: Hypothyroidism, Down syndrome, and untreated celiac disease can contribute to delayed teething.[1]

  • Environmental Factors: In-utero exposure to environmental toxins like lead or other pollutants, poor oral hygiene, and lack of proper dental care can also play a role.[2]

Teething schedule
teething schedule

How Late Teething Impacts Eating Skills  

Chewing and Eating

➤ Delayed Introduction to Solid Foods: Without teeth, it can be challenging for children to manage solid foods, leading to delays in introducing a variety of textures and flavours. Parents may also limit food textures, unsure as yo what to do.

➤ Nutritional Intake: Difficulty chewing can limit a child’s diet to soft foods, potentially affecting nutritional balance.

➤ Preference for soft, mushy textures: Parents might notice their child prefers soft, mushy foods like purees and oats.

➤ Rejection and spitting out chewy, hard foods

Children may reject a food or spit out chewy or hard textures, such as meat (including chicken), or vegetables. This is because these textures are harder to manage without teeth, leading to frustration and discomfort. In this situation spitting out the food is not a rejection of the food, it is merely showing you that your child is learning to eat and needs some adjustments with what they can do with texture at this stage.

Speech Development

➤ Articulation: Teeth are crucial for forming certain sounds. Late teething can affect speech clarity and the development of specific phonemes.

Oral Motor Skills

➤ Oral Exploration: Teeth help children explore objects with their mouths, a part of sensory and motor development.

➤ Feeding Skills: Developing mature chewing patterns is linked to the presence of teeth. Without them, children may rely on pureed or soft foods longer than usual.

Supporting Your Child Through This Phase 

Here are some practical strategies to help your child through the teething process and support their eating skills:

Massaging the Gums

➤ Using Clean Fingers: Gently massaging the gums with clean fingers can provide relief and stimulate tooth eruption.

➤ Using specially designed tooth brushes or for easing babies into tooth brushing.

➤ Teething Gels: Over-the-counter teething gels can soothe discomfort.

Teething Rings and Toys

➤ Chilled Teething Rings: Chilling teething rings in the refrigerator can provide soothing relief.

➤ Frozen Washcloths: Wet a clean washcloth, twist it, and freeze it. The cold cloth can provide relief and help massage the gums.

➤ Mesh Feeders: These allow babies to chew on solid foods without choking risks. Chilled fruits or vegetables in the feeder can provide relief, new textures and flavours.

➤ Textured Teething Toys: These toys can massage the gums and provide sensory stimulation. Choose safe, non-toxic materials.

Offering the Right Texture, always under supervision

Be sure to watch for choking hazards.  You may offer softer texture with the aim to progress to hard textures: for example allow your child to build skills with chicken mince before you move to crumbed chicken tenderloins and then to chicken schnitzel.

Throughout items can be served in strips, or bite-size, based  on size of the child little finger, if appropriate, cheese cubes, or semi-dried apricots cubes may help place food between gums, chewing gum with older children may also be a useful strategy.

Allowing children to manage harder food will benefit jaw development to its full potential as opposed to never offering those textures.

➤ Teething Biscuits and Rusks: Hard, sugar-free teething biscuits or rusks can provide a safe chewing surface that massages the gums.

➤ Carrot Sticks: Raw or slightly chilled carrot sticks are firm enough to provide relief without breaking apart easily.

➤ Celery Sticks: Chilled celery sticks are fibrous and can be soothing for sore gums.

➤ Kabanas: These small, firm dry sausages can offer a different texture and are easy for little hands to hold and chew on.

➤ Breadsticks: Hard breadsticks can offer a good teething texture. Toasted  breadsticks may also be helpful.

➤ Cucumber Sticks: Chilled cucumber sticks can be soothing and provide a crunchy texture.

➤ Melon Slices: Chilled melon slices are soft yet firm, providing both hydration and a soothing texture.

➤ Apple Slices: Cold apple slices offer a sweet, crunchy alternative.

➤ Bell Pepper Strips: Chilled strips of bell pepper are crunchy and hydrating.

➤ Banana Chunks: Frozen banana chunks are soft enough to chew but provide a soothing cold texture.

➤ Meltable snacks which can be found in the baby food aisle.These snacks typically have a texture that is both crunchy and soft, making them easy for babies to chew on, even without teeth. Importantly, they are designed to dissolve quickly in the mouth, reducing the risk of choking and allowing babies to safely explore different textures and flavours.

➤ Cold Foods: Foods like yoghurt, apple sauce, or pureed fruits can soothe sore gums and introduce new textures.


Regular Oral Hygiene

Make the process enjoyable for your child. Sing a song, make funny faces, or talk to them soothingly to create a positive association with oral care.

➤ Brushing Gums: Even before teeth emerge, it is beneficial to brush your child’s gums to establish good oral hygiene habits. Use a clean, damp cloth or a soft, silicone finger toothbrush to gently massage and clean the gums.

➤ Transition to Tooth Brushing: Once the first tooth appears, switch to a soft-bristled infant toothbrush and use a small, smear-sized amount of chosen toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) for children under three years old.

Observation and Patience

➤ Every child is different. Monitoring development and consulting with a paediatrician, if there are concerns, can provide peace of mind. If chewing and speech delays occur, getting a referral to a SLP is recommended.

Additional Oral Hygiene Practices  

Avoid Sugary Drinks

➤ Limit sugary and carbonated drinks as well as sugary snacks to prevent tooth decay once teeth emerge.

Regular Check-ups

➤ Schedule your child’s first dental visit by their first birthday or within six months of their first tooth erupting. Early dental visits can help monitor oral development and address any concerns promptly.

Pacifier and Bottle Habits

➤ Avoid letting your child sleep with a bottle or pacifier dipped in sugary substances, as this can promote bacteria growth and potential tooth decay.


These alternatives not only help soothe teething pain but also introduce a variety of textures, encouraging chewing and the development of oral motor skills.



Late teething can be a source of concern for parents, especially when it leads to fussy eating habits. However, with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, you can support your child’s oral and motor development effectively. Remember, every child grows at their own pace, and with your support, they will eventually catch up and thrive. Establishing good oral hygiene habits early on will pave the way for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.


ieser H, Amato M, Caggiano M, Ciacci C. Dental Manifestations and Celiac Disease-An Overview. J Clin Med. 2023 Apr 10;12(8):2801. doi: 10.3390/jcm12082801. PMID: 37109138; PMCID: PMC10144097


Geng HO, Zhang JC, Zhou L, Cai HY, Wang JB. [The effect of lead exposure in utero on the teeth eruption and enamel development of rat offspring.]. Zhonghua Lao Dong Wei Sheng Zhi Ye Bing Za Zhi. 2005 Feb;23(1):27-30. Chinese. PMID: 15748508.

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