There are all kinds of milestones in the first few years of life, and seeing teeth start to come in is a big one. Before you know it, that gummy smile will be replaced by a full set of pearly whites.
While this can be exciting for parents, it can also be painful for baby. This article provides you with everything you need to know about teething so that you will recognize when it begins, and also how to help soothe your little one’s pain.
Babies are born with 20 primary teeth below their gum line. Sooner or later, those teeth are going to erupt. When they do, the process can be quite painful for baby, and for mom and dad.
The medical term for teething is odontiasis. This is the process of an infant’s teeth erupting, and breaking through the gums. This is also referred to as cutting of the teeth.
In fact, when you hear someone say “I cut my teeth doing…”, this is where the expression comes from.
When Does Teething Usually Start?
Each baby begins teething on their own schedule. Most start the process when they are 4 – 6 months old. However anywhere from 3 to 14 months is considered normal.
If parents had teeth come in early, their kids are more likely to have them come in early as well. Same holds true if mom and dad’s teeth came in late. Preemies’ teeth also tend to come in a bit later than usual.
About 1 out of every 2000 – 3000 babies are born with teeth. These are called natal teeth, and generally it’s completely fine. However, in some cases, when these teeth are loose, doctors will extract them. This is done to prevent them from falling out on their own, which could be a choking risk for the baby.
The typical teething timeline looks something like this:
- Central incisors: 6 – 12 months of age
- Lateral incisors: 9 – 16 months of age
- Canine teeth: 16 – 23 months of age
- First molars: 13 – 19 months of age
- Second molars: 22 – 24 months of age
What Are Common Teething Symptoms?
Babies aren’t always the best communicators. So, teething can be fairly difficult to identify. There are some reasonably common symptoms. However, not all babies exhibit all symptoms. In fact, some babies don’t have any symptoms at all.
Excessive drooling can be a teething symptom. However, it’s also something that a lot of babies do regardless of whether or not they are teething. So, just because a baby is drooling a lot, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are teething. It’s also worth pointing out that not all babies will experience excessive drooling when teething begins.
So, essentially, the takeaway here is that drooling might or might not be a sign of teething. This should give you a flavor for why it can be so difficult to tell when teething begins.
Mild Rash Around Mouth
When babies drool a lot, it can irritate the skin around their mouth and that can cause a rash. So, this is more of a knock on effect from excessive drooling, and an indirect symptom of teething.
Rashes on other parts of the body are not related to teething. So, if you observe this, you should take your little one to see a doctor.
Fussiness And Irritability
This is another one of those symptoms that can be hard to read. Yes, teething can be quite painful for infants. So, it can lead to increased fussiness and irritability. Then again, so can gas, tummy aches, hunger, and a million other things.
Chewing On Things
Chewing on objects can soothe your little one’s pain. This is because it serves as counter pressure to the teeth that are pushing through your baby’s gums.
Grabbing Or Rubbing Ears And Cheeks
Babies that are teething may start to rub their cheeks in order to try to relieve the pain. In some cases, this pain can actually travel through the jaw and into the ear canal. So, babies that are teething often grab or rub their ears.
Teething can lead to a mild fever. That said, anything over 101 degrees is probably not related to teething. So, if you observe a high temperature, it’s best to see a doctor.
Change In Eating Habits
When a baby begins teething, it might be painful to eat solid food. So, some babies try to avoid solid food and instead get nourishment only through nursing or formula.
For other babies, eating solid food brings pain relief. These babies might seek out more solid foods and turn down milk or formula.
Given that this can go either way, it’s easy to see why it’s difficult to correctly interpret the signals.
When a tooth is getting ready to erupt, it can cause redness and swelling in the gums. This is something to check if you suspect your little one is teething.
No more than a third of babies have any one symptom. So, one-third of the kids might drool, another third might be irritable, and another third might have trouble sleeping. – Deb Lonzer, Chairperson of the Department of Community Pediatrics at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital
What Are The Best Teething Remedies?
There are a number of remedies that can go a long way toward easing your little one’s pain. I suggest trying a few different things. You might find that one works best, or that the most effective strategy is to keep mixing it up with different soothing techniques.
Cold Teething Toys
Since babies love to chew on things in order to relieve teething pain, a teething toy is a natural solution. If you place the teething toy in the freezer or refrigerator before giving it to your little one, it will have a nice added benefit. The cold toy will actually numb your baby’s gums providing even greater relief.
Cristin’s Tip: When our son was teething, this was by far the best source of pain relief. We had three teething toys and would just cycle through them. While our son was chewing on one, the other two would be cooling off in the refrigerator. Then, whenever the one he was chewing got to room temperature, we would rinse it off, put it in the fridge, and give him one of the cold ones that we had ready.
Frozen Wash Cloth
If you don’t have any teething toys on hand, a frozen wash cloth can work in much the same way. Simply wet the wash cloth, and then put in the freezer for a little while.
Massaging your little one’s gums with your finger can help as well. This is particularly useful for those times when you’re out of the house and don’t have any toys or other remedies on hand.
Given that teething can be painful, it makes sense that a pain reliever such as Children’s Tylenol (Acetaminophen) or Children’s Advil or Motrin (Ibuprofen) would help.
Having said that, you should talk with your doctor before using these, and use only as directed.
Remedies To Avoid
You will want to avoid over the counter teething gels and liquids that have the ingredient benzocaine. The FDA states that this ingredient shouldn’t be given to children under 2 years of age, as it can cause serious side effects.
When Should You Call The Doctor?
If your little one experiences diarrhea, vomiting, cough, congestion, or a fever higher than 101 degrees, you should call the doctor. These symptoms are not associated with teething, and generally indicate some other illness.
In addition, if your baby has body rashes, you should call the doctor. While rashes around the mouth are associated with teething (because of excess drool), rashes on the body are not.
If no teeth have come in by age 15 months, it is also a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor to get things checked out.
Taking Care Of Your Little One’s New Teeth
Once your little one’s first tooth appears, it’s time to get into the routine of good dental hygiene. Rubbing your baby’s teeth a couple of times each day with a washcloth is the perfect place to start.
At this point, you will also want to stop nursing your little one to sleep or putting them to bed with a bottle. This can lead to plaque build up for babies, just as it would for adults if they ate something in bed right before going to sleep.
It’s also a good idea to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist once your little one reaches one year of age. Even if your baby doesn’t have teeth yet, this is an appointment that you will want to make.
Everything You Need To Know About Teething: Final Thoughts
Teething is one those milestones that is both exciting and trying at the same time. While you might love seeing those little teeth come in, the process is generally not a lot of fun for your baby. As you probably know by now, when baby isn’t happy, mom and dad aren’t happy either.
The remedies above should help you navigate the teething process just a little bit more smoothly. At the end of the day, it’s a good idea to keep perspective too. This is something that everyone goes through. So, while it might be difficult at times, try to enjoy the ride.