By Colleen Hurley, RD Certified Kid’s Nutrition Specialist
Teething, or the emerging of baby teeth through the gums, can be a difficult time for both babies and parents. It is important to understand what to expect during this time in addition to learning a few ways to help your baby feel better.
Teething usually begins around 6 months and can last until 3 years of age. Don’t fret; the most difficult time of teething is during infancy as babies are unable to express (in words) exactly what’s hurting. Between around 5 and 7 months, you will notice the first teeth breaking through the gums. Most commonly the bottom 2 teeth known as the central incisors (as seen in the baby pictured above) appear first. The 4 upper central teeth usually follow these incisors about 4-8 weeks later. In another few weeks, two more teeth emerge on either side of the 2 bottom teeth known as lower lateral incisors. The molars, or the back teeth used for grinding food, are the next to break through the gum line. Last, but certainly not least, are the top 2 eye teeth- the pointy teeth in baby’s upper jaw. By around 3 years old, most kids have all 20 of their primary teeth. This is simply a general outline of tooth succession as teething varies dramatically from child to child because that no 2 infants are exactly alike. Some babies may not begin teething until later in the first year of life, while others may start well before 6 months.
‘Tooth’ Be Told Signs of teething can be more than just drooling. Other teething symptoms include:
• Ear pulling/rubbing
• Facial rash
• Waking up in the middle of the night
• Decreased appetite
• Increased chewing on toys and fingers
Try not to fall into the trap of blaming any unusual behaviors or symptoms on teething. In addition to the symptoms listed above, your baby may experience diarrhea, fever, or inability to sleep. It is important NOT to assume these symptoms are from teething alone. Infants very often express “teething symptoms” but until you see swollen gums or a tooth coming in; it could just be a coincidence. Child health experts believe that for many infants, teething can be an easy and painless process. Remember every baby is unique -some babies may experience teething pain while other babies may have no symptoms at all.
What about a fever? Some parents associate teething with a fever. Pediatricians believe that teething should not cause a fever and that a fever could be a sign of infection. When in doubt, call your physician. Your child could be teething while having symptoms of another illness.
What you can do
We all hate to see our baby in pain so here are a few tips and tricks using some very simple “tools” that can offer teething pain relief:
• Your hands: after making sure your hands are clean, rub your finger along her gum line
• A washcloth: She may get some relief biting down on a damp, cold washcloth. You can put it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it, but don’t give it to her frozen
• A teething ring: a cold, liquid-filled teething ring can also bring him some relief. Again, don’t let it get frozen solid- if it is too hard the ring can actually damage his gums
• Foods for chewing: try a gluten-free teething biscuit to give her something to chew and bite on
• Cold foods: a cold organic apple puree or chilled breast milk can feel soothing on sore gums
• Over the counter pain relievers: there are a variety of different teething gels, baby acetaminophen, or homeopathic remedies that are created for teething pain relief. Check with your physician first for proper dosages
• Your arms: don’t forget to use your arms for lots of cuddles and hugs to help your baby feel better!
References: Michael L. Macknin. Symptoms Associated With Infant Teething: A Prospective Study Pediatrics, Apr 2000; 105: 747 – 752.
Melissa Wake.Teething and Tooth Eruption in Infants: A Cohort Study Pediatrics, Dec 2000; 106: 1374 – 1379.