Is your baby teething? What do you do? What can you expect? How will you survive? Whether it’s your first time with a teething baby or you just want to “get it right this time”, in our post, A Complete Guide to Teething, we’ll help you better navigate the very natural teething process. We’ll also help in nurturing your child as you, the parent or parents, explore this milestone together with baby.
In this post, we’ll discuss:
- Chapter 1: Teething Process and Common Milestones
- Chapter 2: Signs of Teething
- Chapter 3: Teething Symptoms
- Chapter 4: Teething Remedies
- Chapter 5: Teething Toys
- Chapter 6: Taking Care of Baby’s New Teeth
- Chapter 7: Common Questions and Answers
Chapter 1: Teething Process and Common Milestones
Your baby is getting teeth! You may be wondering: How long does teething take? When will my baby’s teeth come in?
Baby’s primary teeth announce their joyous arrival over a period of about 18 – 24 months as they come through in stages. We’ll list these stages and time frames thoroughly, but note that every baby is a little different. Baby teeth may come in at different rates and sometimes teeth that normally come in after, emerge first. It’s all part of your baby’s unique and beautiful makeup that makes him/her so special.
At 6-10 months you welcome baby’s first tooth as the lower front incisors (front teeth) come in. These are the two front teeth on the bottom that will give Baby the first experience of what it means to have teeth. Careful! Baby might get carried away with the new found freedom to chomp.
At 8-12 months the upper front incisors emerge. Don’t be alarmed if these teeth erupt before the lowers.
At 9-13 months, the upper lateral incisors join the party. “Lateral” means on the sides of, so these are the incisors that are on either side of the central incisors. Now Baby probably has four teeth across the top and two lower. But others aren’t far behind.
10 – 16 Months
At the 10-16 months, the lower lateral incisors erupt to balance the uppers and lowers.
13 -19 Months
At 13-19 months, Baby gets the first set of molars up top. These are the flat teeth that will help crush fibrous foods once the lowers join them. Baby may or may not have canines, the teeth right behind the two sets of incisors, at this time.
14 – 18 Months
Baby’s gets first lower molars.
16 – 22 Months
It’s time for Baby to get some upper teeth to help with piercing and tearing more substantial food. These are the two canines with their sharp fang-like points.
17 – 23 Months
2 Lower canines will soon follow the uppers.
23 – 31 Months
Baby adds some lower 2nd molars, the back most primary teeth.
25 – 33 Months
Upper 2nd molars emerge, and Baby’s set of primary teeth are complete!
All 20 primary teeth are very important for growth and development; they foster good nutrition by aiding in chewing, aid in speech development and don’t forget that beautiful picture perfect smile!
Chapter 2: Signs Of Teething
When Baby starts teething, you’ll want to recognize the signs leading up to tooth eruption so that you can guide the process along, comfort baby and help reduce pain. Baby can’t tell you that something hurts, so you’ll be watching for the teething signs.
Excessive crying, especially at bed time
You were so happy when Baby first slept through the night. But now you may be going through it all over again — although you can expect it to be random nights and not consistent as it was just a couple months ago.
Chewing on hands, fingers, and toys… and everything
As the teeth try to emerge from one side, putting pressure on the opposite side can reduce the pressure and temporarily relieve pain. Baby will put anything in the mouth that can be accessed: bed rails, stair rails, furniture, remotes, shirts, toothbrushes, toilet paper, extension cords, pens, books. Anything that may be dangerous for Baby to chew on should be kept away. Small, sturdy devices like the remote control may seem okay at first sight aside from the icky germs, but they have batteries that could do serious harm if swallowed.
How would you act if you were in pain and no one understood? You might be a little irritable too. Baby may get upset with people, surroundings or things during this time and begin crying with no apparent cause.
Raised, red gums
As the teeth push through, the gums may become red, and swollen.
White specks under gums
When the teeth are just below the surface, you’ll see little white specks beneath a thin layer of gum tissue.
Ear tugging can suggest an ear infection, but teething babies can also experience deferred pain or pain that resonates out from its source. This may be the case, particularly with back teeth because the nerves of the back teeth branch out to the middle ear.
A sore jaw can become a sore middle/inner ear for which tugging on the ear can provide some temporary relief. You don’t want to ignore an ear infection, so if Baby is tugging on an ear, has a fever and seems uncomfortable when lying down, you’ll want to have Baby’s doctor check him/her out. This could be an ear infection.
Excess saliva may be produced during this time as the body trying to soothe the inflamed area. Streams of drool down the cheeks and chin can be a sign that baby is teething.
No outward signs at all
A select few, lucky parents claim that there were no signs at all. No teeth one day and then there they are — not all at once of course. This may happen with some or all of the teeth.
- Keeping Track of Baby Teeth by Ilana Wiles
Chapter 3: Teething Symptoms
In the signs section, we talked about what you may notice about your child’s appearance and behavior. Now let’s discuss symptoms that baby is experiencing.
Warning: Baby may not be his/her usual, adorable and playful self at least not all of the time.
Erupting teeth sounds painful, and it is. The gums are very sore, and the sharp edges of teeth are pushing up out of the jaw and through the skin. The ears may feel stuffy, swollen and painful. The jaw aches and the gums feel swollen and sensitive.
Baby’s discomfort may not be at the level of pain, but Baby will almost undoubtedly have sore gums as the teeth push up through the skin.
Baby is so tired and wants to sleep, but the discomfort may prevent sleeping, so Baby stays awake. Apparently, not sleeping for extended periods of time would be damaging to Baby’s and your health, so we’ll discuss remedies in the next section.
Fevers are our bodies’ natural way of fighting illness. It is possible for your child to have a very low-grade fever when teething, but anything higher than that should be investigated by baby’s pediatrician to rule out any other illness.
Because Baby may not be getting great sleep and is in pain, he/she feels irritable and may cry more often and get upset by little inconveniences more easily. But know it will pass. Baby will be adorable and cheerful most of the time
- Teething Pain by Dr. Greene
- How To Handle Teething and Sleep by Nicole Johnson
- What to Do When Your Kids Chew on Everything by Katelyn Fagen
Chapter 4: Teething Remedies
While teething is a very natural process, some babies simply experience worse symptoms than others. As with all of Baby’s milestones, it’s helpful to have a caring adult around to support Baby through the process. Here are some remedies to help Baby through the process.
To Help Baby Sleep
Give Children’s Motrin or Tylenol, make sure the dose is approved by the pediatrician. Read the label carefully and stop immediately and call the pediatrician if Baby has any reactions. These medicines should be reserved for bedtime because you can only have so many doses per day. If Baby wakes after 4-6 hours and appears to be in pain again, a 2nd dose is usually okay, but not any sooner.
Cold wash cloth
Soak a clean washcloth in cold water, wring and let Baby chew on it. The cold will help numb the pain long enough for Baby to fall asleep.
Teething tablets have been used in the past by many parents to help ease teething pain however their safety has been questioned recently by the FDA causing some brands (Hylands) to be recalled. It is not recommended for use at this time, and we urge parents to look into these products thoroughly before considering their use.
The FDA has also warned the public regarding the use of Benzocaine, a local anesthetic that can be found in over-the-counter (OTC) products as Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase. Especially in children under 2 years old, there is a higher risk for a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is reduced.
To Help Relieve Teething Pain During the Day
Teethers should be firm to add pressure to the gums but have a slight give to allow the gums and new teeth to subtly sink in.
Hard biscuits specifically made for teething can help baby cut teeth while eating a healthy snack.
Puree and freeze fruit juice, pump and freeze breast milk or freeze chamomile tea into little handheld pops. You can buy molds that are shaped like a pacifier, so Baby can easily hold it. Remember that fruit juice is loaded with sugar and can damage baby’s teeth, so use juice sparingly.
Snacks like soothing cold yogurt and even ice cream (in small amounts).
- FDA: Homeopathic Teething Remedies Toxic by Edzard Ernst, MD
- 10 Natural Teething Remedies by Amy Antoinette
Chapter 5: Teething Toys
Baby’s teething and you’re on a mission to reduce the pain and keep Baby cheerful and bright. What do you do? You buy more Baby toys, of course. Teething toys can be a life saver for Baby and Mommy during this time. When Baby has clean and appropriate toys to chew on, Baby is less likely to chew on other dirty and dangerous household objects like keys and cabinets.
As Baby gets teeth, he/she’ll want to explore different textures so let’s talk about some amazing options.
- Silicone bracelets – Since baby wears the bracelet, it never gets lost.
- Wooden teething rings with cloth handles – Baby learns to grip and hold cloth while chewing on soft wood and leaving hundreds of cute, little bite marks that you’re so happy are not on the coffee table instead.
- Teething necklaces with bunched cloth – It’s easy for baby to twist the necklace around to find the perfect spot to gnaw.
- Teething necklaces with wooden rings – Wood is often one of Baby’s favorite substances to gnaw on. And if the wood becomes unsatisfying, Baby can just chew on the cloth necklace itself.
- Squeeze toys – Baby will love to chew and make squeaky sounds with baby-safe squeeze toys. But don’t let Baby confuse his/her toys with puppy’s.
- Amber necklaces – Necklaces made from real amber beads give Baby yet another texture to explore. Some people claim these are extremely effective, but always be cautious with putting something around Baby’s neck that could potentially be a strangulation hazard. Also be sure each bead is individually wrapped so there is no way one can break off and potentially be a choking hazard as well.
- Tackling Teething: Our Favorite Teething Toys by Life Anchored
Chapter 6: Caring For Baby Teeth
Congrats, Proud Parent! Baby now has teeth, so what do you do? Let’s discuss how to care for Baby teeth, but first, we’ll share some statistics you need to know.
According to the CDC:
- More than 40 percent of children have caries by the time they reach kindergarten.
- Kids who get cavities in their primary teeth are more likely to get cavities in their permanent teeth.
- 20% of children 6-8 have cavities that go untreated.
Think that the primary teeth aren’t really that important since your child loses them anyway? You may be surprised to find that if a child loses a primary tooth too early, then the permanent tooth that replaces it will often come in maligned, which means that your child is more likely to need braces. Not to mention, primary teeth with decay can lead to pain, fevers, abscess, and even life-threatening infections if left untreated.
A child who learns early to care for teeth is more likely to have better overall health into adulthood with a reduced risk of diabetes, stroke, cancer, Alzheimer’s, kidney problems, infertility… and the list goes on.
Now, let’s talk about protecting those teeth.
Even before the teeth arrive, Baby will still have bacteria in the mouth that multiplies. These bacteria are usually transmitted from family members, especially mom, so it is of the utmost importance for mom to also have a healthy oral environment. As the teeth begin to emerge, these bacteria will begin their colonization and attack of those new teeth. Always wipe the gums with a clean, moist washcloth or folded gauze after each feeding.
By age 1, some of Baby’s teeth have fully emerged. It’s time to switch to a soft baby brush and no more than a rice-grain size speck of fluoride toothpaste. Brush teeth twice a day. Baby should not be left to brush his/her own teeth; they need to be closely supervised to assure that he/she isn’t swallowing too much toothpaste.
At this point, your child likely wants to be cleaning his/her own teeth independently. You can encourage this positive behavior by having them brush and you finish the process after. Children do not have the manual dexterity to effectively brush all surfaces of their teeth until about age 8-9. This is a task that should be shared with parents to ensure proper oral hygiene is being maintained.
A pea size amount of toothpaste is all they need at this stage. Brushing should be firm but gentle with a soft-bristle brush. Flossing should begin as soon as you cannot see space between each tooth.
Most importantly, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend your child find a Dental Home within 6 months of their first tooth emerging and no later than age 1. This way, a Pediatric Dentist can give you individualized anticipatory guidance based on your child’s specific needs. The Pediatric Dentist can be your go-to person for any questions regarding oral care, products, growth, and development questions as well as a contact point for any dental trauma that your child may encounter.
- Tips for Healthy Baby Teeth Care by Hollie Schultz
- Is Taking Care of Baby Teeth Important by Chrystal Johnson
- Dental Health from Baby Teeth to Braces by Jo Frost
- 10 Benefits of Clean Teeth and a Healthy Mouth by Rachel Hall
- No Fooling: Baby Teeth Really Do Deserve Special Care by Dentistry & You
Chapter 7: Common Questions and Answers
My baby boy is only 2 months old. Can he really be teething?
Yes. Each baby is unique and perfectly designed. While most babies begin teething at around 6 months, many babies start teething well before or after the normal teething age. Baby’s teeth will come through on his/her own timeline… not ours.
When should Baby first go to the dentist?
The American Dental Association recommends that Baby visits the dentist within 6 months of the first tooth arriving. This will typically mean that Baby sees the dentist before the 1st birthday, but don’t wait too long if Baby is an early teether.
What’s the difference between a regular (general) dentist and pediatric dentist?
A general dentist is trained to handle patients of all ages. A pediatric dentist has had 2-3 years of additional training to specialize in children’s dental needs. Because of this, techniques, facilities, and staff will all be designed around helping children to feel calm and comfortable when they see the dentist.
Seeing a pediatric dentist can be a fun and joyful experience at a pediatric dentist while children who visit a general dentist may not have the same experience, not because the people aren’t friendly and professional, but only because everything is not centered around children’s needs. Even if you love your dentist, it may be better for Baby to see a pediatric dentist.
I feel like I’m getting conflicting information about dental care, will a pediatric dentist answer my questions?
Absolutely! That’s what we’re here for. Ask away. We love to answer questions, and we are dedicated to the health of our patients. We are overjoyed to help dispel myths and provide clarity to children’s dental care. It’s what we love to do.