What is teething?

A baby's first tooth usually appears between the ages of 5 and 7 months. Some babies get their first tooth a little earlier and others a little later. Often, the two middle bottom teeth come through the gums first, followed by the middle four upper teeth. By the time children are 30 months (2 and 1/2 years) of age, all 20 baby teeth are usually present.

Teething is the process of teeth moving and breaking through the gums. This is a normal developmental stage for your baby.

What are the symptoms of teething? 

The following are the most common symptoms of teething. However, each baby may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Drooling more than usual - drooling may start as early as 3 or 4 months of age, but is not always a sign of teething.
  • Constantly putting fingers or fists in the mouth - babies like to chew on things whether or not they are teething.
  • Swollen, or puffy area on gum.
  • Fussiness or crankiness.

Teething does not cause colds, diarrhea, or high fever, but it can make a baby uncomfortable. If your baby becomes sick around the same time teeth are coming in, it is important to evaluate the symptoms of that illness independently of the teething. Call your child's physician for advice if your baby is sick.

How can you help your child with the discomforts of teething? 

If your baby is cranky with teething, try giving him/her hard rubber toys, teething rings, or cold teething toys to chew on. Do not freeze teething toys or rings as these can hurt your baby's gums. You can also rub your baby's gum with your finger. Teething gels (i.e., Anbesol®, Orajel®) are not needed or helpful as they are quickly washed off with drooling. Something cold on the gums usually soothes and numbs the gums better. Ask your baby's physician about pain relieving medications for teething.

Care of baby's teeth 

Once your baby gets a tooth, good dental care should begin. Clean your baby's teeth once a day with a soft, wet cloth. At twelve months of age, a small, soft toothbrush with water on it can be used. As your child gets older, a small dab of toothpaste can be used on the toothbrush. Consult your child's dentist regarding the best time for your child to begin using toothpaste.

Do not give your baby a bottle in bed to fall asleep. If your baby drinks from a bottle and then falls asleep, milk or juice will stay on the teeth and cause tooth decay.

Baby teeth are important. Teeth are needed to chew food and form sounds when talking. Baby teeth also save space in the mouth for permanent teeth, making it particularly important to take care of them.