Symptoms and Treatment for Baby Teething
What signs to look for and what you can do to help your teething baby
When your baby begins teething, it can be an awfully emotional experience watching them suffer. They may be drooling and crying a lot and for some babies, the experience can be a miserable one.
This article will cover:
- The signs and symptoms of baby teething
- What you need to know about baby teething and baby teeth
- Treatments you can use to help your baby get through the worst of it
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Baby teething–what you need to know
Image source: etoileark
Your baby’s 20 primary teeth, often called “baby teeth” are present at birth but are beneath the gum line. They usually begin to come in around 6 months of age to one year–but every baby is different.
I recall seeing the little with lumps in my youngest son’s mouth on the day of his birth. I could feel his teeth there, especially on the bottom. Sure enough, at 6 weeks old he cut his first tooth. (No one believed me until they saw it for themselves.) For most babies, however, this isn’t the norm. Around 6 months of age is usually the beginning of these primary teeth cutting through the gumline, though your baby may experience symptoms long before you actually see teeth emerging. The lower front teeth come in first. For my son who cut teeth early, it didn’t affect his behavior very much. He was too small and young to get his hands in his mouth and gnaw on them and he didn’t seem to notice a sudden onset of pain. My oldest son, who cut teeth much later had a very different reaction once he began experiencing the pain of teething.
Most children have a full set of primary teeth by the age of three. Good dental care and dental habits are very important, even for baby teeth. Though baby teeth aren’t permanent, they are still important as they help your child to speak, smile, and to chew their food. They also help your child’s jaw to grow and develop properly.
It is recommended that your child sees a dentist as soon as their first tooth comes in. Your dentist can help you to develop a care plan for your child’s baby teeth and they can help you with information about how bottle feeding at night, for example, affects the teeth, or thumb-sucking habits.
The signs and symptoms of baby teething
- Disrupted sleep
- Swelling or inflammation of the gums
- Loss of appetite
- Rash around the mouth
- Mild temperature
- Increased biting and gum-rubbing
Treatments for baby teething
Let’s take the list of symptoms, one by one, and discuss the treatments you can implement to help your baby get through this uncomfortable time.
It may be difficult to know what is going on with your baby’s mood. The only way they can really communicate is through crying. When your baby’s personality shifts from their usually pleasant temperament–you can bet they are feeling irritable. They may cry more often, seem unusually “fussy” and the normal soothing methods you use don’t seem to calm them as well as they normally do. This irritability could be a bit mild or it could be a case of the incredibly unhappy screaming baby. Can you blame them? Tooth pain really hurts!
To help your baby deal with disrupting and unpleasant irritability, the best you can do is to relieve the pain and provide soothing measures. This is a very stressful time for most parents so tending to your own self-care and keeping a patient and loving attitude (yes, I know it’s hard) is best.
Here are some soothing measures that may help both you and your baby:
- Lay your baby on their left side (which promotes good digestion) and gently rub their back. The soothing movements may provide comfort or at least a distraction for them.
- Do not overfeed your baby which may cause more discomfort–they may ask to be consistently fed, mistaking the oral discomfort with hunger, perhaps, or maybe just seeking some kind of relief. (Nursing them may help to calm them, so try, yes, to calm them, but if they are overeating and spitting most of it up, it may be time to provide other oral relief such as a cool cloth to chew on.)
- Walk with them, sing to them, cuddle them, rock them–whatever seems to help.
- Turn on a calming sound. Sounds that remind babies of being inside the womb may be calming, such as a white noise device, the humming sound of a fan, or the recording of a heartbeat.–How to Calm a Fussy Baby: Tips for Parents & Caregivers
- Try not to overstimulate them. Keep sounds, movements, and the environment around them as soothing as possible. Keep them comfortable (not too hot or too cold).
It is hard to sleep when you are in pain. Your baby may begin to have sleep disruptions as they begin teething. If they have been sleeping well on their own and suddenly want to sleep with you–it is ok to adjust to their needs as they are going through a difficult time sleeping. However, if sleep training efforts are in place to establish a bedtime routine, many parents find that sticking to the schedule will actually be more helpful.
A warm bath and some soothing efforts at bedtime can be of help. Try gently rubbing your baby’s gums to provide some relief or allow them to chew on a cold cloth to relieve the pain.
Ask your child’s pediatrician if a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen 30 minutes before bedtime may be of help.
Swelling or inflammation of the gums
Babies who are teething most often have redness, swelling, an irritation of the gums, especially where a tooth is trying to cut through. There are topical reliefs you can provide as well as medicinal.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Damp cloth cooled in the refrigerator. You can hold this on the site of the swelling and irritation or if your baby is able to hold and gnaw on it you can give it to them for this purpose.
- Teething rings may also be cooled and offered for relief.
The Mayo Clinic advises against the following:
- Over-the-counter remedies, including homeopathic teething tablets. The benefits of topical gels and teething tablets haven’t been demonstrated. In recent years, lab analysis of some homeopathic remedies found greater amounts than labeled of the ingredient belladonna, which can cause seizures and difficulty breathing.
- Teething medications containing benzocaine or lidocaine. These pain relievers can be harmful — even fatal — to your baby.
- Teething necklaces, bracelets or anklets. These items pose a risk of choking, strangulation, mouth injury and infection.
Other warnings from Healthy Children.org include:
***Stay away from teething tablets that contain the plant poison belladonna and gels with benzocaine. Belladonna and benzocaine are marketed to numb your child’s pain, but the FDA has issued warnings against both due to potential side effects.
A word on baby teething gels:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using any sort of topical medication to treat teething pain in children, including prescription or OTC creams and gels, or homeopathic teething tablets. They offer little to no benefit and are associated with serious risk.
Benzocaine — a local anesthetic — is the active ingredient in several OTC oral health care products such as Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, Orajel, and Topex. These products should not be used for teething because they can be dangerous and are not useful because they wash out of a baby’s mouth within minutes. The use of benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions, and lozenges for mouth and gum pain can lead to a serious — and sometimes fatal — condition called methemoglobinemia, in which the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells is greatly reduced.–FDA
There’s not a whole lot you can do to stop teething babies from drooling, also known as sialorrhea. Wiping it away can be abrasive to their delicate skin so use a very soft baby washcloth for this purpose. Just remember to be very gentle. (See the section below about preventing and treating drool rash.)
Loss of appetite
Some babies experience loss of appetite. They simply do not feel well and this may make them lose interest in eating. Be patient. Offer food and give them plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Contact your child’s pediatrician if the loss of appetite causes you concern or if your baby experiences weight loss.
Smaller, more frequent meals may help.
Rash around the mouth
Prevent drool rash, which can cause red, itchy, bumpy patches on the skin, which babies may find painful and uncomfortable. Drool rash can sometimes present on and around your baby’s mouth due to excess saliva.
- Always keeping clean cloths or baby wipes handy and wiping the child’s face dry as soon as any drool appears. If baby wipes seem to worsen the irritation, try plain water or a soft dry cloth.
- If teething seems to be causing the baby to drool, try giving them a teething toy or something cold to chew on, such as a teething ring from the refrigerator.
- Applying an emollient, barrier cream, or ointment to the affected area to help protect and heal the baby’s skin. However, it is best to consult a doctor before using any new products, especially near the baby’s mouth.
- Avoiding using irritating substances on or around the baby, such as harsh laundry detergents, soaps, and scented lotions. Try replacing these products with mild, fragrance-free alternatives.
- Always cleaning and sterilizing the baby’s bottles and pacifiers to ensure that these are not the cause of the rash. Parents and caregivers should replace or limit the use of any objects that appear to cause or worsen the rash.
- Gently washing the rash with tepid water and patting it dry afterward.
Teething can cause a mild fever. If your baby’s fever is over 100.4 they may actually be sick. To treat your baby’s fever, talk with their doctor about the correct dosage of over the counter fever reducer.
Keep your baby cool and comfortable.
Teething can cause mild diarrhea. If your baby’s stool becomes excessively watery or their diarrhea is worsening or heavy, contact their pediatrician.
Make sure your baby gets lots of fluids and use pediatrician-recommended diaper creams to treat diaper rash.
Increased biting and gum-rubbing
Your baby may begin chewing or gnawing on your fingers, their fingers, toys, or anything they can get in their mouth. A cool teething ring or a cool cloth for them to chew on may provide relief.
You can cool a baby spoon and hold it to the areas that seem to be bothering your baby or areas of the gums that are reddened and swollen.
Make sure your baby does not chew on anything that is unhealthy or unsafe for them to have in their mouth.
Some babies will pull at their ears or rub their ears when they are in pain. This can also indicate an issue with their ears (possibly an ear infection) so if your baby is doing this excessively, you may want to make an appointment with their pediatrician to have their ears checked and rule out an infection.
Other symptoms your child may exhibit are a coughing or gagging reflex, runny nose (you may actually mistake teething for a cold), biting and gnawing on things, cheek rubbing, sucking on items like their fingers or toys, gnawing on a pacifier,
Tooth care for baby teeth
Fluoride should be added to your child’s diet at 6 months of age.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay by hardening the enamel of teeth. The good news is that fluoride is often added to tap water. Give your baby a few ounces of water in a sippy or straw cup when you begin him or her on solid foods (about 6 months of age). Speak with your pediatrician to see if your tap water contains fluoride or whether your child needs fluoride supplements. Fluoride is not typically found in most bottled water. See FAQ: Fluoride and Children for more information.–Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know
Even before your baby has teeth, wipe their gums clean after meals. No toothpaste necessary for babies but be sure to clear away food or milk that is on the gums.
Do not let your child go to bed with a bottle as this can lead to tooth decay.
See a dentist as soon as your child has teeth.
Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste when they are around age 3.
“Once your child turns 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)recommend that a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste be used when brushing.” —Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know
The most important thing to remember when it comes to your baby’s teething is that it is a temporary struggle for your child but it can be very painful and uncomfortable. When the crying is wearing on your nerves and you think you can’t take another moment of it–imagine how they are feeling? Tooth pain can be low-grade and annoying but can also be quite miserable. Offer your baby the support, love, and all the cuddles they need to get through this tough time. Take the time you need, as well, to look after your own need for rest and de-stressing–so you can be the strong support system they need.
And don’t forget to celebrate those beautiful baby teeth! Take pictures so you can remember each phase of their changing smile!
Thank you for reading this helpful guide on your baby’s teething care. This article is brought to you by the blogging contributors at Babienet Parenting Community, a community of caring parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us.
Here is more information about your child’s dental care:
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Christina M. Ward,
Babienet blog contributor
Mother and grandmother
Symptoms and Treatment for Baby Teething is a helpful guide for parents about baby teething symptoms, baby teeth care, and teething treatment.