By Jamell Andrews
As sweet a first milestone as baby’s first tooth may be, teething can be hard on both parents and baby. Some babies make it through teething with next to no symptoms, while others don’t have it quite so easy and experience all of the common signs of teething. Knowing what the signs and symptoms are and what to do about them can make teething easier on your baby and you.
When Does Teething Start?
You can expect your baby’s first tooth to appear at around the age of 6 months, though not all children develop at the same pace. The following shows you the order in which they come in according to the American Dental Association’s Primary Teeth Eruption Chart:
- Lower central incisor – 6-10 months
- Upper central incisor: 8-12 months
- Upper lateral incisor: 9-13 months
- Lower lateral incisor: 10-16 months
- First upper molar: 13-19 months
- First lower molar: 14-18 months
- Upper canine (cuspid): 16-22 months
- Lower canine (cuspid): 17-23 months
- Second lower molar: 23-31 months
- Second upper molar: 25-33 months
Teething Signs and Symptoms
Chances are that like most parents before you, fussing and crying will be the first sign of teething that you notice. The gums get sore as the tooth breaks through. Couple that pain with the other signs and symptoms here and it’s easy to see why your baby is fussy:
- Excessive drooling. A teething baby will drool considerably more than usual, often enough to soak their shirts regularly. Putting on a bib and wiping your baby’s chin and neck regularly can help keep your baby more comfortable and avoid chapping.
- Facial rash. The increased drooling can often cause chafing, redness and rash around the mouth and chin. Along with trying to keep the area dry as much as possible, you can also create a barrier over the skin using petroleum jelly. Flushed cheeks are also a common sign of teething, though this is sometimes due to a fever. Check your baby’s temperature to be sure.
- Biting. Babies will bite down—or rather gum down—on just about anything they can get their hands on to help relieve the discomfort in their gums. If you notice your baby gumming away at your fingers or toys, then they’re likely teething.
- Waking throughout the night. The symptoms of teething continue even as your baby sleeps, causing night waking. Try to comfort your baby without feeding or taking him or her out of the crib to avoid disrupting their established routine. Sometimes a gentle rub of the back is all they need to drift back to sleep.
- Coughing or gagging. Excessive drool caused by teething can cause your baby to cough and gag. As long as your baby doesn’t have anything in their mouths and isn’t sick, it’s not a cause for concern.
- Not wanting to eat. With sore gums, your baby may find nursing or bottle-feeding uncomfortable, causing them to not want to eat. The best you can do is keep trying to feed them and contact the pediatrician if your baby is refusing to eat for more than a couple of days.
- Rubbing their cheeks or ears. Babies will often rub their cheeks or pull on their ears when teething. This is because of the pain in their mouths, which can also radiate to the ears and cheeks.
Tips for Easier Teething
Teething is a natural part of life and unfortunately, so is all of the discomfort caused by the teeth pushing through the gums. You can make your baby more comfortable and help soothe some of their pain with the following tips:
- Cold teething toys. The counter-pressure provided by biting down feels good. Cool your baby’s teething rings and other teething toys in the refrigerator to help provide some much needed extra relief.
- Rub your baby’s gums. Use your clean finger rub your baby’s gums. The pressure will feel good offer some relief.
- Cold food and drinks. Your baby will find relief in cold foods when teething. Cold yogurt or baby food from the fridge are likely to appeal to your baby more than warmed food when teething. If your baby has already been introduced to water or is over 6 months, cold water from a bottle or sips from a cup can also offer relief.
- Pain relievers. When other methods fail to give your baby relief, speak to your doctor about pain relievers, such as baby acetaminophen, which can also help with fever. Though fever is not actually a symptom of teething, increased pain can cause a low-grade fever in people of all ages.
Things to Avoid
There are a few important things to keep in mind when trying to relieve your baby’s teething discomfort:
- Make sure that cold drinks, food, and teething toys are cold and not frozen to avoid causing your baby further discomfort or harm.
- Avoid teething products that contain numbing agents or the pain reliever benzocaine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a warning in 2006 and again in 2011 about the risks of using products containing this local anesthetic that’s found in many teething and tooth ache remedies. Benzocaine products have been linked to a rare, but serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which reduces oxygen flow to the brain.
- Contrary to popular belief, diarrhea is not a common symptom of teething. If your baby experiences diarrhea while teething, make sure that teething toys are clean and that your baby doesn’t get dehydrated. Call your doctor if diarrhea lasts for more than a couple of days.