Your baby’s first teeth will usually make their grand, grumpy entrance at around 6 months old, although signs of teething start sooner. Here are common teething symptoms along with remedies to ease the baby’s discomfort.
Teething is the process by which a baby’s teeth erupt, or breakthrough, the gums. Teething generally occurs between 6 to 24 months of age. Symptoms of teething include irritability, tender, swollen gums, and the infant wanting to place objects or fingers into the mouth in an attempt to reduce discomfort.
There’s a wide range of normal in terms of when teething in babies starts. That’s because the moment those first tiny pearly whites make their appearance can vary quite a bit from baby to baby. Your baby may be a little or very irritated by those baby teeth coming through, but teething doesn’t have to be a horrible experience for you or your child. We will give you as much information as you can so you know what to expect and how to handle the situations that can play out.
So babies usually get their first teeth between 6 and 8 months and they don’t stop teething until they’re about 2.5 -3 years old. They usually come out in pairs symmetrically and the lower teeth tend to come out a couple of months earlier than the corresponding upper teeth.
NOTE: It’s important to understand that these are just age ranges. Some babies can start teething as early as when they’re 3 months old and some babies don’t get their first teeth until they’re 12 months old. Both the process of teething and the timing of the teething vary greatly from baby to baby – the timing of a baby’s teething is not indicative of their developmental milestones.
While it’s hard to know exactly when they’ll arrive, the order baby teeth come in is more predictable. Most commonly, baby teeth arrive in the center first and move outward in the following pattern:
Every baby experiences teething differently. Some have virtually no symptoms, while others suffer through months of teething pain and fussiness. Knowing what teething symptoms to look out for can help get you and your baby through this milestone. Here are some of the first signs of teething:
It’s hard to believe so much fluid can come from such a tiny mouth, but teething can stimulate a lot of drooling. The waterworks start for most babies between about 10 weeks and 4 months of age, and drooling may continue for as long as your baby’s teeth continue to come in. If you find that your baby’s shirts are constantly soggy, fasten on a bib to keep him more comfortable and clean. To stave off chapping, gently wipe his chin throughout the day.
If your teething baby is drooling, the constant drip may cause chafing, chapping, redness, and rashes around his mouth, chin, and even his neck and chest. Patting it away will help prevent irritation. You can also create a moisture barrier to the area with Vaseline or Aquaphor and moisturize with a gentle, unscented skin cream as needed.
A constant mouthful of spit can make babies gag and cough. It does not cause concern, as long as your baby has no other signs of a cold, flu, or allergies.
Pressure from teeth poking through under the gums causes babies a lot of discomfort, which can be relieved by counter-pressure (aka chewing and biting). Teething babies will gum whatever’s in the gnawing distance, including rattles, their hands, your nipples if you’re breastfeeding (though if that happens you should take him off the breast and offer a cold washcloth or another form of comfort), your fingers, crib gates, and stroller guards.
Some babies breeze through teething without complaint. Others suffer from a good deal of pain due to the inflammation of tender gum tissue — which they feel compelled to share with you in the form of whining or crying. First teeth usually hurt the most (as do molars, because they’re bigger). Fortunately, most babies eventually get used to what teething feels like and aren’t quite so bothered later on.
Your baby’s mouth will ache as that little tooth presses on the gums and pokes up to the surface. Not surprisingly, it’ll probably make him feel out of sorts. Some babies may be irritable for just a few hours, but others can stay fussy for days or weeks.
Cranky babies yearn to be soothed by putting something in their mouths, whether it’s a bottle or the breast. But the suction of nursing may make a teething infant’s sore gums feel worse. That’s why teething babies can be fussy about feedings, and get more frustrated when neither their discomfort nor their tummies find relief. Those eating solid foods may also refuse to eat while they’re teething.
As your baby’s little chompers start to emerge, his discomfort may disrupt his nighttime rest, even if he previously slept through the night.
Babies whose teeth are coming in may tug furiously at their ears or rub their cheeks or chins. An ache in the gums (especially from erupting molars) can be felt elsewhere since gums, ears, and cheeks share nerve pathways. Keep in mind that ear pulling is also a sign baby’s tired and a symptom of an ear infection, so try to determine what’s behind it.
Notice a bluish lump under your baby’s gums? It may be a gum hematoma or blood that’s trapped under the gums due to a tooth’s eruption, and it’s no cause for concern. A cold compress or washcloth on the gums can relieve the pain and may help the hematoma heal faster. If the hematoma keeps growing, see your pediatric dentist.
Signs of teething can vary widely from baby to baby, although you can probably expect to see at least some (and maybe many) symptoms
You can help alleviate your baby’s teething discomfort with these remedies:
Teething toys: Teething babies love to chew, and for good reason: The gumming action provides counter-pressure, which relieves the aching as teeth push up and into the mouth. Teething relief products, including bumpy rubber teething toys, your clean finger, or a soft, wet toothbrush (without toothpaste) rubbed firmly on baby’s gums can provide soothing counter-pressure. Your baby may balk at first because it hurts initially, but it’s often the best natural remedy for teething pain and soon brings relief.
Cold temperatures: Applying cold to your baby’s inflamed and sore gums can help relieve the pain of teething. Try:
Refrigerated toys: Chewing is even more effective when the object is cold and numbs the gums. Keep a supply of teething toys or wet washcloths in the fridge. Do not keep teething rings and clothes for the baby to chew on in the freezer.
Cold drinks: A bottle of cold water can provide chilly relief to achy gums for babies over 6 months old when water can be introduced. If your baby doesn’t accept the bottle, you can try offering him chilled, ice-free water in a cup.
Cold food: Refrigerated treats such as yogurt, blended peaches and applesauce (once these foods are introduced) can be more appetizing than room-temperature snacks. Or give pureed frozen fruits like raspberries and plums in a baby feeder mesh bag, so large chunks of food can’t pose a choking risk, but only under adult supervision and with your baby seated upright. Avoid having the child suck on cold food throughout the day for relief, however, because it can weaken the enamel on the erupting teeth, which can lead to cavities later.
If chewing, rubbing, and sucking chilled foods aren’t doing the trick, and especially if teething is keeping your baby up at night, talk to your pediatrician. You’ll likely get the okay to break out the baby acetaminophen (if the baby is over 2 months) or ibuprofen (for babies over 6 months). Be sure to follow the dosing instructions exactly. Keep in mind that comfort in the form of extra snuggles, kisses, and lots of patience is what a teething baby craves.
If your baby has a fever above 100.4 F, diarrhea, a rash, or is inconsolable, call your pediatrician to have their symptoms evaluated. Your child could have a respiratory illness, an ear infection,6 or another unrelated condition. A delay in treatment, especially with fevers or diarrhea, can result in dehydration or other severe complications. You should also call your doctor if your baby is inconsolable, isn’t eating or sleeping well, or if their symptoms last longer than a week.
Run a soft, clean cloth over your baby’s gums twice a day — after the morning feeding and before bed. The cleansing can keep food debris and bacteria from building up in your baby’s mouth.
When your baby’s first teeth appear, use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush to clean his or her teeth twice a day. Until your child learns to spit — at about age 3 — use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice. Then switch to a pea-sized dollop as your child approaches 2 to 3 years of age.
It’s also time to think about regular dental checkups. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend scheduling a child’s first dental visit at or near his or her first birthday. Remember, regular childhood dental care helps set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
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