Teething syndrome — or simply “teething” — is a normal process that infants go through as their teeth break, or cut, through their gums. According to the American Dental Association, babies start teething when they are between 4 and 7 months old. By the time a child is 3, they should have a first or primary set of 20 teeth.
Having teeth means your child will be able to eat a bigger variety of foods, but getting there can be tough on both baby and parent. There are ways you can make your child more comfortable during the process, and there are signs that signal when it’s time to call the pediatrician.
Part 2 of 6: Causes
Understanding Why Babies Teethe
Babies are born with a full set of teeth underneath their gums. During the first year of life, these teeth begin to cut through the gums.
These teeth break through the gums in stages. Typically, the classic bottom teeth — often referred to as pegs — come in first, followed by the top middle teeth. From this point on, the remaining teeth will cut through the gums over a period of three years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some children may even get their full sets of teeth after 2 years of age.
Part 3 of 6: Symptoms
Symptoms Associated with Teething
Each infant has a unique mix of symptoms during teething. The most common symptoms are irritability and a lack of appetite.
Normally, babies will show at least one or two of the following symptoms when they begin to teethe:
chewing on solid objects
crying and crankiness
inability to sleep
loss of appetite
sore and tender gums
red and swollen gums
Part 4 of 6: Remedies
Relieving Your Baby’s Teething Pain
While teething is a natural process, there are some tried and true methods to help relieve your baby’s discomfort. You can try rubbing your child’s gums with a damp washcloth, a clean finger, or a special gum-rubbing finger pad.
Teething rings are also popular options. Babies can chew on these to ease the discomfort. If you can, chill a teething ring in the refrigerator beforehand. This provides pressure on the gums along with a soothing coolness. You should never freeze the ring because it can break and possibly choke your infant.
With time, you should begin to introduce harder foods, like cold fruit and vegetables, to your baby’s diet. This is an important milestone that can also alleviate teething discomfort. Make sure to stay with the child at all times, so you can monitor their chewing and prevent choking.
During teething, a baby’s constant drooling can irritate their skin. Use a bib to keep your baby’s chin dry, as best as possible.
Part 5 of 6: Medications
Relief with Medications
If your infant is really having a tough time, you might want to give them infant acetaminophen to relieve discomfort. You can also apply a teething gel. However, avoid gels that contain choline salicylate and benzocaine. These are not safe for infants, since they can reduce the levels of oxygen in the blood.
There are other supposed remedies out there that should be avoided. In fact, such methods can actually harm your baby. Never:
give a baby aspirin or rub it on the gums
use alcohol on the baby’s gums
put completely frozen objects directly on the gums
allow your child to chew on hard plastic toys — this poses both an oral health risk as well as a choking hazard
Many parents believe that high fever and diarrhea are also symptoms of teething, but this is usually not the case. Contact your pediatrician if your baby develops a fever or diarrhea, or if they’re having continued discomfort.