Baby Teething: Signs, Symptoms & Solutions

Dr. Matthew Hannan | My Dental Advocate
Matt Hannan, DDS
Updated: November 27, 2023
Mom cleaning baby teeth | Baby Teething: Signs, Symptoms & Solutions | My Dental Advocate

Irritable babies drooling excessively and gnawing on their hands may be teething. Teething occurs when baby teeth erupt and can be uncomfortable for little ones.

In addition, it can be incredibly stressful for parents and caregivers if they are unsure when their baby is teething. Let’s look at common symptoms, tooth eruption patterns, and teething solutions the next time your little one cuts a tooth.

Recommended Reading: Baby Teeth Are Important Too!

What Is Teething?

Teething occurs when baby teeth push upward through the gum tissue. Typically, these teeth arrive in pairs, with the lower central incisors erupting first. “Cutting teeth” commonly describes this process; however, teeth don’t cut through the gum surface.

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When Do Babies Start Teething?

Did you know that all 20 baby teeth are below the gumline when your baby is born? Most babies begin teething around 6 to 12 months of age. Tooth eruption is variable, so don’t be alarmed if your child is behind age markers. Typically, infants will have all primary teeth by age 3.

Recommended Reading: First Dental Visit Expectations | Kids

Teething Signs & Symptoms

Pain tolerance will be different for every child, so it’s important to recognize common signs and symptoms. One symptom that can cause concern is a slightly elevated temperature; however, if your infant has a fever, be sure to notify your pediatrician.

First symptoms can occur three to five days before tooth eruption and should subside soon.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Drooling
  • Irritability
  • Fussiness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Gnawing on hands or toys
  • Pulling ear or cheek
  • Swollen gums
  • Altered sleeping patterns

Abnormal Signs & Symptoms

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Congestion

How to Soothe a Teething Baby

Teething babies will chew on anything within reach, including their hands. If you notice your baby gnawing on their hands, gently rub their gums with a clean finger or towel.

Teething toys are also available in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Look for ones made of rubber without liquid inside that can be chilled in the freezer. Be wary of teething necklaces and other metal teething products, as lead poisoning has occurred with some.

Is Teething Medication Recommended?

The FDA warns against topical benzocaine for children younger than two years. Benzocaine medications, including liquids, gels, or sprays, occur in many forms.

A small dose of children’s pain relievers, such as Acetaminophen, may help with pain management. Read all labels and ask your doctor before administering any medication.

How to Care For Baby Teeth

Before the arrival of baby teeth, be sure you and your little one are practicing good oral hygiene.

Ensure you regularly see a dentist for routine cleanings as oral bacteria can transmit between parent and child. Clean your baby’s gums twice a day with a clean, wet washcloth, preferably after meals, to remove food particles and gently massage tender gum tissue.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends a child visits the dentist within the first six months of tooth eruption or by age 1, whichever occurs first.

Related: Learn more about Kids Dentistry

After tooth eruption occurs, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear amount of toothpaste to remove plaque and remaining food particles. The ADA recommends a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children between 2 and 6 years old.

Fluoride is effective at reducing tooth decay and remineralizing weakened enamel.

My Experience & Expertise

Most children will be affected by teething during their early years. However, learning how to care for them will help ease your baby’s discomfort.

Knowledge is power when cultivating healthy dental habits. The more informed you are, the better positioned you’ll be to prevent avoidable and potentially costly dental procedures for you and your family. Watch for future blog posts, where we’ll continue sharing important information, product reviews and practical advice!