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Ask a Dentist: Is my baby teething?

Ask a Dentist: Is My Baby Teething?

May 10, 2018

Teething is the process in which your infant’s first teeth appear by emerging through the gums, typically arriving in pairs. Expect to see the first pair emerge sometime between six and 10 months of age.

There are a wide variety of signs and symptoms your infant will have that will let you know that he or she is teething. Brace yourself. Except for a few lucky babies, the teething process is usually a bit unpleasant. If your infant is exhibiting several of the signs and symptoms between 6 and 33 months of age, it’s probably teething.

Signs and Symptoms of Teething

  • Drooling
  • Swollen, bulging gums
  • A tooth visible below the gum
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trying to bite, chew, and suck on everything
  • Rubbing the face
  • Rejecting food
  • Grabbing the ears

There are other things your baby may undergo that are not related to teething, regardless of what “old wife’s tales” have be circulating the nursery. Parents are convinced that these are related to teething, but the science doesn’t back up that claim.

Symptoms That Are Not Related to Teething

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea 
  • Rash
  • Vomiting
  • Cough and Congestion

These are not symptoms of teething. Call your doctor if your baby is experiencing any of these problems.

When Does Teething Start?

Typically, your baby’s teeth will make their first appearance between the ages of four to six months. Family history is also a factor. If your family tends to get their teeth early, your baby has a good chance of getting them early. (Same thing goes for late bloomers.) 

Expect the two bottom front teeth to show up first, followed by the four upper front teeth. If your infant’s teeth don’t follow this order, don’t worry. Your child will still complete her full set of baby teeth by the time she reaches her third birthday.

How Do I Soothe My Baby’s Teething Pain?

Here are some things you can do to ease the discomfort you child may have while teething:

Keep It Cold

Just like you put ice on a sprained ankle to numb the pain and reduce swelling, you can use cold compresses and other items to soothe sore gums. Be careful to avoid prolonged contact between your child's gums and cold objects and never put frozen objects in their mouth as these can cause burns. Other options are to put a washcloth in a plastic bag to chill it in the fridge, refrigerate a pacifier or teether, or serve up a bit of chilled fruit in a mesh bag (if your child has started eating solids).

Apply Pressure

Pressure on the gums can distract your child’s brain from the sensation of teething pain. If keeping it cold is rejected, have your child chew on a teether at room temp, chew on a vibrating teether, serve up unsweetened teething crackers, or gently rub your baby’s gums with your pinky. Also, never put anything into a child's mouth that might cause them to choke.

Use Topical Medications

Numbing gels and creams to rub on your baby’s gums are available at your local drugstore. These are not without risk: the US Food and Drug Administration advises against using meds with benzocaine on children younger than two with a doctor’s guidance. Also, you baby could swallow any creams place on the gums which can numb her throat and interfere with her gag reflex, making it harder to prevent choking.

Use Pain Relief Medicine Sparingly

If all else fails, your doctor might have a recommendation, like acetaminophen. For babies who are at least six months old, your doctor may recommend ibuprofen. Aspirin is completely off the table for anyone younger than 19 years due its association with Reye’s syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition. Pain relief medicine should only be used for the few times when other methods do not help. Be extremely cautious. You do not want to overmedicate for teething.

What Else Should I Do?

Be prepared before teething starts. Make sure your baby is on your dental plan so you can contact your dentist if you have any questions. They're a great resource to help you manage teething troubles.

Bonus tip:  Schedule your baby's first dental visit by their first birthday. It helps ensure they get and stay on the path to a lifelong, healthy smile.

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