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Some of the myths and superstitions about teething are pretty common and still around, and some no longer exist, but they all have one thing in common – they are quite interesting and somewhat scary.

Although science has led to a better understanding of teething pain and health in general, it has only reduced the myths and misconceptions about the process. Research still has not completely eliminated these beliefs from the minds of the folk, and some of them will probably remain among us for a long time. Who knows, perhaps one day people of the future will be smirking and laughing at our own fallacious ways.

MYTH 1: A baby born with a tooth is a devil

While not that common, a baby can be born with a tooth or two. These teeth are called natal teeth, and there’s no need to pull them out if they’re not loose and pose no choking risk for the baby. [1]  The myths surrounding natal teeth vary across the world. The British, as well as most of the Europe considered this a good thing, and children born with a tooth or two were believed to become great soldiers and to conquer the world. Shakespeare describes Richard the Third’s natal tooth as a sign that he’ll “bite the world”. [23]

Malaysians also believe that natal tooth brings good fortune, but in most cultures it is considered bad omen. In India, China, some African cultures, and some parts of central Europe children born with a tooth are considered monsters, devils, or vampires. [4]

Many African tribes murdered children born with teeth because they were believed to bring bad luck to all people that they come in contact with. This condition has been surrounded by beliefs and assumptions from the beginning of time. Ancient Romans considered that being born with a tooth will bring a splendid future for boys, whereas it meant a bad fortune for girls. [5]

The exact cause why the tooth appears while still in the womb is still unknown, but several conditions have been mentioned as possible causative factors, such as malnutrition, trauma, hormonal stimulation, maternal exposure to toxins, syphilis, febrile states, and superficial position of the tooth germ, among others. [6]

If the tooth is loose, it is recommended to remove it as there was a case of a sudden disappearance of the natal tooth in 28-day-old baby, which is also an indication of the possibility of choking. If sharp, the tooth can cause fissures and ulcers on a baby’s tongue, and the nipple. [7]

MYTH 2: An early teether will get siblings within a year

The first tooth in the average infant appears at about 6 months of age. [8]

One old wives' tale says that if a baby erupts her first tooth before she’s six months old, the mother is going to get pregnant again soon — within a year. [9] Most of us know how a child is conceived, and it has nothing to do with the tooth eruption. In fact, the fussiness of an early teether can only postpone the baby making.

MYTH 3: A ritual that can prevent teething pain

In Britain, there’s a belief that three circles around the house with a 10-day-old baby will reduce his teething pain in the future.

In Nigeria, family kills a rooster when there’s the first sight of a tooth in a baby’s mouth. This is done to prevent teething pain and any possible future complications.

In Germany, some people still believe that the immediate slap of a baby’s face in a moment when they first see a tooth can make the tooth grow without any pain. There’s also a German legend from the Middle Ages which proposes kissing a donkey to relieve a toothache. This makes sense only if the donkey — scared and surprised — removes the painful tooth by hitting the kisser with the front hooves.

In Christian tradition, it was only after Christ entered Jerusalem that donkeys have the dark cross on their backs. The hairs from the cross were worn around the neck as they were believed to cure many ailments, including teething pain.

In the past, when signs of teething were first detected by the Caribbean mothers, they would place a raw egg in a sock or a bag and tie it above the baby’s crib. This was conducted to remove the teething pain. When all the teeth have emerged, the egg could be taken down. In some traditions, they would put a decision of choosing an egg to an infant. Three eggs were offered; the first egg that a baby touches is the one that goes above the crib.

MYTH 4: A baby who cuts upper teeth first brings bad luck to his maternal uncle

In some parts of India, mainly the Punjab region, people believe that a baby who first teethes from the top jaw brings bad luck to his mother’s brother. Solution to break the curse also differs from region to region.

In Horshiarpur, a mother goes from her village on the path which leads to her parents’ home. The uncle comes from the opposite direction and brings four nails, a tray, and a yard of cloth. He drives the nails into the ground in the shape of a square, touches the baby’s teeth with a tray, covers it with a cloth and puts everything on the ground between the nails.  He and his sister must not talk during the deed, and also shouldn't see each other’s faces. They return in silence.[10]

In other parts of India, maternal uncle carries only a copper coin, and an iron nail. He then opens a baby’s mouth, touches the teeth with the coin and the nail. He buries the articles and returns home without seeing his sister’s face at any moment during the ritual. In one version of the ritual — in the city of Karnal— the uncle brings a bronze cup and places it secretly on the roof of the house where his sister and the baby live. [10]

There are several variations of this ritual, with various props and paraphernalia, but they all have one thing in common — after they’re conducted, the ill luck for the maternal uncle is considered no longer effective.

MYTH 5: A meat bone as a teether

Many people across the world would give bones from meat for the baby to chew on. Chicken leg bones and lamb rib bones were common teethers in many households in the past but, surprisingly, they still are. [11]

Apparently, according to parents — the flavor is nice and the children are content.  I seriously doubt that these parents have tried gnawing on the bones after they finish the meat, but let them be. This is of course no longer recommended as it’s a possible choking hazard.

Only you can decide what to use for your baby’s teething pain, and what not, just please be careful as some of the soothing methods used in the past were due to lack of knowledge and information, and may represent a danger for the baby! The folklore teething remedies are interesting, but they should remain in the past where they belong.

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