Has your baby begun teething? Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if your baby is fussy because of teething, because they’re coming down with something, or just because of the ups and downs of being a baby 🙃 Some babies actually exhibit signs of teething (fussiness, sleep disturbances, drooling, loss of appetite) for more than a week before the tooth erupts.
When do babies start teething?
Teething is a long process. Most babies will get their first teeth at around 5 to 8 months. On average, 4 teeth will erupt every 4 months. Your baby’s bottom front teeth will likely come in first, followed by their top front teeth.
By age 3, most children will typically have all 20 of their baby teeth.
The No. 1 way to know your baby is teething
The best way to know if your baby is teething is to look inside their mouth. For a good view, lay them down on the bed or a pillow. See if your baby’s gums look red or swollen, or if you can see a little white below the surface.
5 signs of teething (or possibly something else)
The height of teething symptoms occur during the week it takes for the tooth to break through the gums. If any of the “teething symptoms” below persist unabated beyond a couple of weeks, then something else might be the cause.
- Drooling: Drooling is probably the most common teething symptom, but your baby’s salivary glands also develop around 3 to 4 months. Since your baby’s mouth is not typically fully closed at this age, drool can come out in excess and be misinterpreted as a “teething symptom.”
- Sleep disturbances: A baby’s sleep can certainly be affected by teething, but if it persists for more than 3 to 4 days it might be something else, including the natural ebb and flow of sleep for babies.
- Hands in the mouth: Your baby may start exploring their mouth with their hands as a way for them to discover their world—it doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby is teething.
- Irritability: Your baby will likely be irritable when teething, but irritability can also be caused by a growth spurt, or something else.
- Loss of appetite: Because sucking and eating can be painful for teething gums, your baby may be reluctant to eat as much during that time. Fluctuations in appetite also naturally occur as your baby grows, so identifying the cause can be tricky. In any case, check for wet diapers to make sure your baby is properly hydrated.
How to soothe a teething baby
Just as adults have varying levels of pain tolerance, so do babies. As you learn how your child responds to teething, you’ll start to identify it more quickly and find the best ways to comfort them.
Before your baby can hold teething toys
- Massage their gums with a silicone toothbrush or a clean finger
- Use cold objects like a chilled spoon to hold over the gums, or a pacifier dipped in water and frozen for 15 to 30 minutes
Once your baby can hold objects in their hand
- Offer them a teether, such as the Rubber Triangle Teether or Silicone Triple Teether & Organic Teething Cloth.
- Prepare the Organic Teething Cloth or a washcloth for your baby by dipping a knotted end in water or breastmilk and freezing for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Let them bite down on your clean finger or washcloth. Most babies don’t bite hard enough to hurt.
- To prevent rashes, frequently wipe your baby’s face with a clean cloth to remove the drool.
- Try making breastmilk pops or frozen puree pops. They can be an especially good teething solution for babies who are not eating as much.
- To soothe a rash, you can apply a moisture-barrier ointment around your baby’s face, especially before naps or bedtime.
If your baby is teething and sensitive to oral care, you can use a warm damp washcloth to clean the teething areas and then brush the remaining teeth as normal.
When to talk to your child’s doctor
If nothing seems to be relieving the teething discomfort, you can consult with your child’s pediatrician about over-the-counter pain medication. In addition, these symptoms may signal illness rather than teething:
- A true fever (>100.4 degrees F)
- Diarrhea (3 to 4 times a day)
- Full body rash
When to see the dentist
Once your baby’s first teeth make an appearance, schedule a visit with a dentist for guidance on brushing and oral care. Pediatric dentists recommend that you take your baby for their first dental visit by their first birthday.
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