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The teething phase: What to expect and how to soothe sore gums

As a parent, it feels like a huge success when you finally hit your stride and have somewhat of a routine down with your new baby. Unfortunately, this can all come crashing down once those first teeth start to make their appearance.

Teething can be a difficult time with lots of unknown and challenging, sleepless nights for both you and your baby. Lucky for you, there are plenty of resources to help you out along the way.

Let’s talk about a few normal things that can occur during the teething phase, as well as some pointers to help give your baby some relief.

Teething signs and symptoms

Teething will usually start around 6 to 10 months of age, though it can occur later. If your little one is older than 10 months and without any teeth, it is nothing to worry about — you can always talk with your pediatrician if you have specific concerns.

The most common symptoms are increased drooling, crankiness and fussiness.

It is most common for the two central incisors or two bottom teeth to come through first, but truthfully, they can erupt in order.

Teething can start with some very subtle signs but can also disrupt your baby’s routine significantly. The most common symptoms are increased drooling, crankiness and fussiness.

You may notice that your child seems to be chewing on anything in sight, including their own hands — or you in some cases.

Sometimes a baby will run a low-grade fever while teething. Remember, anything over 100.4 is likely not related to teething. You should consult your pediatrician if you are seeing any high fever or other signs that worry you, including respiratory symptoms.

Related: Fever 101: What to do and when to worry

How to relieve teething pain

Now that you know a little bit about what types of symptoms your baby may experience, it is important to review how you can help them through this time. Below are some tips and tricks to help you both get through the long nights. 

  • Soothe with cool objects: Cool objects will bring some relief to their swollen gums. Try putting their teething rings in the fridge or freezer. Be careful not to use anything like rags, paper towels or things your baby can chew through and potentially choke on. 
  • Ease the swelling: If your baby is interested in chewing on your hands or arms, you can dip your finger in cold water and gently massage their gums. This will help with swelling and may bring comfort to their gums. 
  • Be cautious of choking: Make sure whatever objects are within their reach are safe. You can wear and use teething necklaces but necklaces, bracelets or anklets that are not made for your baby are choking hazards and should be avoided. 
  • Think twice before using OTC medication: Please consult your pediatrician to discuss over the counter pain relief medications like Tylenol or Ibuprofen, as it is important you have an accurate dose for your child. Remember that infants younger than six months should not have any Ibuprofen or Motrin. Also, over the counter teething gels and tablets are not recommended.
  • Utilize skin-to-skin contact: Focused attention and lots of cuddles will go a long way during this time. Most babies will be more attached to you due to their discomfort. However, it is important to give yourself some breaks, especially if your child is very upset or crying. Always remember that it is okay to ask for help or support so that you can take time to get rest and recharge your parent batteries. 

Related: What to do when your baby won’t stop crying

Once your child has started to get their teeth, it is time to start brushing. Use a soft bristle brush and some children’s toothpaste with fluoride. You want to use a very small amount as your baby will not be able to spit out the toothpaste. This also means that it is time to make their first dentist appointment! Getting your child established with a dentist early encourages good oral hygiene and ensures those baby teeth and adult teeth are healthy and happy. 

If your child is six months old and still does not have teeth, do not panic. We still recommend going to the dentist. Remember that gum health is a great indicator of their tooth health and keeping their mouth and gums clean goes a long way. 

Finally, remember that we are all in this together — your pediatrician, friends and family are all here to support you and your child. Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. 

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About the author

Anna Dick, PNP

Anna Dick, PNP, is a nurse practitioner at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's Medical Center.

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The teething phase: What to expect and how to soothe sore gums