Teething is a normal part of a baby’s development that can be frustrating for parents. This article will discuss the most important things you need to know about teething, including ways to help your baby with their teething pain and products to avoid.
Signs of teething include increased drooling, irritability, increased interest in chewing on things, crying spells, and disrupted eating or sleeping patterns.
Teething pain often comes and goes as individual teeth prepare to erupt.
You can help your baby with teething pain by rubbing their gums with a clean finger, offering them something safe to chew on, or with over-the-counter pain relief.
Avoid liquid-filled teething toys, teething biscuits, homeopathic teething remedies, numbing gels, teething jewelry, and rubbing aspirin or alcohol on your baby’s gums.
Speak with your child’s healthcare provider for guidance on over-the-counter medication dosages or if you feel your child’s teething is interfering with their ability to eat or drink.
What is teething?
Teething is the process of teeth growing up through a baby’s gums. It can begin as early as 3 months of age but typically starts between 4 and 7 months.
The two front bottom teeth are usually the first to come through, followed by the four front upper teeth, lower lateral teeth, and back molars. Children typically have all 20 of their primary teeth by their third birthday.
Signs of teething
As a parent, there are certain signs to watch out for to help you determine if your baby is teething. Some of these signs include:
- Drooling more
- Increased interest in chewing on things
- Increased crankiness or irritability
- Crying spells
- Disrupted eating or sleeping patterns
Why is teething so painful for babies?
For some babies, teething is painless. However, the majority of babies do experience some discomfort during the teething process. Teething is painful because as teeth get ready to erupt, the pressure on the surrounding gum can cause swelling and tenderness.
How long does teething pain last?
Teething pain often comes and goes as individual teeth prepare to erupt. It varies from child to child which stage of teething is the most painful. For some babies, the first tooth can be the most uncomfortable because the sensation of the tooth coming in is so unfamiliar. For others, the molars are the most painful to come in because they are the biggest teeth.
Because your child can experience teething pain at any point during the teething process, it is important to monitor them closely for signs of discomfort and to implement strategies to help ease their pain.
How to help your baby with teething pain
No parent wants to see their child in pain. Luckily, there are several things you can try in order to ease your baby’s teething discomfort. Some of the most common recommendations are:
- Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger. The pressure can help soothe their discomfort.
- Give your baby something safe to chew on. A chilled, wet washcloth and liquid-less rubber teething rings tend to work well. Place these items in the refrigerator to chill, not the freezer.
- Try an over-the-counter pain reliever. Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) can help ease teething pain. Talk to your baby's healthcare provider prior to administration to ensure you are giving the correct dosage. Motrin (ibuprofen) should only be given to babies who are six months or older.
Teething items to avoid
Many items that are marketed toward parents to help with teething pain are actually dangerous for babies. Here are some examples:
- Teething toys with liquid inside. These may break or leak, potentially exposing your baby to toxins.
- Teething biscuits or cold food. These are a choking hazard for babies who are not eating solid food yet.
- Homeopathic teething remedies. The effectiveness of these treatments is not supported by research and some contain ingredients that are proven harmful to babies.
- Teething medications or numbing gels that contain benzocaine or lidocaine. These medications can be harmful or fatal.
- Teething necklaces, bracelets, or anklets. These items are choking and strangulation risks.
- Rubbing aspirin or alcohol on baby's gums. This can cause an overdose, which can be fatal.
When should your child see a healthcare provider?
Teething can usually be managed at home. Reach out to your child’s healthcare provider if your baby seems especially uncomfortable or if you think their teething pain is interfering with their ability to eat or drink.
It is always best to talk to your child’s healthcare provider before starting any teething treatments, including over-the-counter medications, in order to make sure you are making the safest decisions for your baby.
- Nemours Kids Health. Teething Tots.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Teething & Tooth Care.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Safely Soothing Teething Pain and Sensory Needs in Babies and Older Children.