The first tooth is a big event in your baby’s young life, but it can be uncomfortable. The more you know about teething, the better you can help your baby get through it. The pediatrician will monitor your baby's teeth for decay and will decide if a referral to a dentist is needed prior to age 1. In lower-risk children, the pediatrIcian can continue to screen teeth until age 3.
Signs of Teething
Most babies begin to teethe between 4-7 months old. But some start much later.
The symptoms aren’t the same for every baby, but they may include:
- Swollen, tender gums
- Fussiness and crying
- A slightly raised temperature (less than 101 F)
- Gnawing or wanting to chew on hard things
- Lots of drool
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Teething can be painful, but it doesn’t usually make babies sick. Call your doctor if your baby has diarrhea, vomiting, rashes on the body, a higher fever, or cough and congestion. These aren’t normal signs of teething.
Soothe a Teething Baby
What works to soothe a friend’s baby might not work for yours. You may need to try different things to help your little one feel better.
Often, something cold in your baby’s mouth helps. Try a cold pacifier, spoon, clean wet washcloth, or a solid (not liquid) refrigerated teething toy or ring. Some experts say frozen teething toys are too cold and may hurt your baby’s mouth. Make sure to clean teething toys, washcloths, and other items after the baby uses them.
Babies -- especially those who are teething -- love to chew. It’s OK to let your baby chew as much as she wants. Just make sure you know what she’s putting into her mouth and that it’s safe and clean.
A hard, unsweetened teething cracker can be comforting. If your baby is older than 6-9 months, you can offer cool water from a sippy cup, too.
You can also massage her gums by gently rubbing them with your clean finger. If the teeth haven’t come in yet, you can let your baby gnaw on your finger.
Child health experts don’t recommend teething necklaces. They’re dangerous: They can strangle the baby. She also can choke if the necklace breaks and she swallows the beads.
If you do choose to use one, make sure to:
- Put it on a wrist or ankle, not around her neck.
- Always watch your baby when she's wearing it.
- Take it away when you aren’t watching your baby, even for a very short time.
You may have heard that amber teething necklaces release a pain reliever when heated. That’s not proven, and doctors say using one is not a good idea.
Medicine that you rub on your baby’s gums to stop the pain of teething may not help. It quickly washes away in the mouth.
Stay away from over-the-counter teething gels and liquids that have the ingredient benzocaine. The FDA says this ingredient shouldn’t be given to children under 2. It can cause rare but serious side effects.
A small dose of a children’s pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may help your baby. But ask your doctor before giving her any medication, and use it exactly as the doctor says.
Teething can be rough for you and your baby at first. But it’ll get easier as you both learn how to soothe each new tooth that pops out.