Remedies to Relieve Teething

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 24, 2022
3 min read

When a baby’s teeth start to emerge, it can be uncomfortable. Most children begin teething around six months and have a full set of teeth by the age of thirty months, but this varies a lot from child to child. 

Teething is a condition for which there is a lot of contradictory, low quality information available. Parents receive a lot of advice, much of it wrong and some of it even dangerous. Even readily available products can do more harm than good. 

One common misconception is that baby teeth cut through gums, causing the associated pain. In fact, before the crown emerges, that part of the gum has already been broken down by hormones.

A lot of symptoms have been attributed to teething, but studies have indicated that most of these come from other causes. If your baby has a rash, fever, or diarrhea, these should be taken as unrelated symptoms and handled accordingly. True signs of teething may include:

  • Crankiness
  • Sore or tender gums
  • A minor increase in temperature (but no fever)
  • Chewing on objects and excessive drooling

While you should not aggressively manage your child’s teething symptoms, there are several things you can do to provide some relief. 

It is impossible to accurately assess the degree of an infant’s teething-related pain. Most people overestimate the degree of teething pain or blame unrelated pain on teething.

However, there are some simple dos and don’ts to follow when it comes to teething remedies:

  • Do use cold to reduce inflammation and reduce pain. You can use spoons, wet washcloths, pacifiers, or teething rings or toys. Refrigerate these objects. Don’t freeze them. After your child has used something, it should be washed immediately. Due to the high risk of infection, you should never let a baby put a dirty object in their mouth. 
  • Do use counterpressure, which infants find soothing. Gently rub your child’s gums with a clean finger or towel. You can dip your finger in cold water to add the benefits of cold therapy as well. Letting them chew on a teething cracker may also help, but make sure that it’s unsweetened.
  • When your baby is especially irritable, you can use an over-the-counter pain-reliever such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Just make sure to use children’s formulas and follow all directions on the label.
  • Don't use teething beads. These pose both a choking hazard and an infection risk. 
  • Don't use medication containing lidocaine or benzocaine. These topical anesthetics can be harmful or even fatal to your baby.
  • Don't use over-the-counter homeopathic remedies. They haven’t proven effective. More importantly, they often contain harmful ingredients that are unlisted or are present in higher amounts than the label advertises. 

Remember that some mouth pain commonly attributed to teething may result from local infections or irritation from over-the-counter remedies. Biting into hard objects may also exacerbate pain rather than relieve it. In general, it is best to follow a conservative and hygienic regimen of care when you are dealing with teething.

If your baby seems to be experiencing excessive pain or if teething interferes with their eating or drinking, you should consult a doctor.

After your baby starts teething, they need proper dental care. Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease of early childhood. Bacteria metabolize certain sugars, producing acid that demineralizes teeth and produces cavities. Your baby’s primary physician should be consulted about dental care, and a first dental visit should be scheduled at about one year.

Before teeth appear, run a clean cloth along their gums twice a day. After they begin to teeth, brush teeth twice a day with a soft brush and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste. Until they learn to spit, use no more than a smear about the size of a grain of rice.

After reports of infant deaths, the FDA launched an investigation into some homeopathic (alternative medicine) teething tablets in 2017. They found inconsistent amounts of belladonna, which is a highly toxic substance also known as deadly nightshade.

If you have given homeopathic tablets to your child, seek immediate medical care if your child exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Flushed skin
  • Lethargy or excessive sleepiness
  • Excessive agitation
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Constipation