Signs Your Baby Is Teething & What to Do

When Do Children Start Teething?

Teething is one of the milestones parents look forward to during the early months of their child’s development. However, teething comes with discomfort (teething pain) for babies and sleeplessness for parents. 

Some babies start growing their first teeth (also called primary teeth) before they are four months old, while some start teething after ten months. 

According to the National Health Service (NHS), most babies grow their first tooth at around six months. Also, primary teeth can erupt with accompanying pain in some babies, while other babies might not experience pain.1

During periods of teething discomfort, many parents seek ways to soothe their baby with teething toys and pain relievers.

6 Signs of Teething

The bottom incisors of babies’ teeth usually erupt first, followed by the top front incisors, the top lateral incisors, the first molars, the bottom lateral incisors, canines, and second molars.6 The baby teething timeline typically runs from about 4 months to 2 and 1/2 years.

Not every child will have teeth erupt in the typical sequence. 

There are some signs that can indicate when the teething process has started, such as:

1. Excessive Drooling

When a baby’s teeth are erupting, the process can stimulate the salivary glands, causing an excessive release of saliva and drooling.

2. Biting

Because teething babies feel pressure from under the gums, they tend to bite and chew on their gums or anything put inside their mouths. The counter pressure from biting and gnawing can relieve the pressure from underneath the gums.

3. Eating and Sleeping Changes 

Teething causes discomfort in babies, which can disrupt their bedtime rest or normal sleep pattern. 

Also, cranky babies usually desire to be breastfed. However, the suction might make their sore gums feel worse. The babies end up frustrated and fussy when they find relief for neither their stomachs nor their teething pain.

4. Ear Pulling 

Pain in the gums can radiate to the ears, especially when the molars are emerging. Babies experiencing this can’t help but rub that area and pull on their ears. However, note that ear pulling can also be a sign of an ear infection. Contact your child’s pediatrician if it continues.

5. Cheek Biting

Similar to the ears, teething pain can also be felt in the cheeks, causing an itching sensation. Your baby will bite on his or her  cheeks to try and relieve the itching sensation.

6. Crying

Babies get easily irritated during the teething process. They tend to get fussy and cry a lot because of the pain. A child’s teeth tend to be more painful if it is the first tooth that is erupting. Most babies get used to teething as time goes on.

Other baby teething symptoms include:

  • Irritability and fretting more than usual
  • Sore gums
  • Cheek rubbing
  • Lack of interest in solid foods
  • Running a mild temperature of 38°C
  • One flushed cheek
  • Gnawing and chewing on things a lot

A study of 125 children showed that symptoms like sleeping problems and high fever were not significantly associated with tooth eruption.2

Potential Side Effects of Teething

When babies start teething, it is usually an unpleasant experience for both the babies and their parents. While teething is a necessary stage of a baby’s development, it can be associated with some side effects such as:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling or inflammation of the gum
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Rash

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), these symptoms are abnormal. If your baby experiences them, you should take him or her to a pediatric dentist.3

What is ‘Teething Fever?’ 

Contrary to what some parents believe, teething does not cause high fever. You may notice a slight temperature rise when your baby is teething. However, a high fever is not a sign of teething.4

Teething can only raise a baby’s temperature slightly. If a teething baby runs a high fever (above 100.4°F), it would be best to consult a pediatrician. 

Teething fever could be used to describe the slight rise in temperature experienced by a teething baby. However, high fever in babies is most likely caused by other illnesses unrelated to teething, such as an infection.

Home Remedies for Teething Babies 

Some home remedies can help soothe a teething baby. Below are some pain relief tips for people seeking parenting tips on how to ease their baby’s teething symptoms:

  • Massaging with a clean finger: You can gently massage your baby’s gums. Put your finger into your baby’s mouth and allow the baby to chew on it. You can also rub on the gums in a circular motion, applying a little pressure. Make sure you wash your hands before doing this.
  • Use of teethers: Teethers include teething rings or bracelets made of silicone, plastic, or rubber. It is best to use a solid teething ring as the liquid-filled ones may get punctured and released into the baby’s mouth.
  • A cooling mechanism: Giving your baby cool water may help soothe his or her gums. If you have introduced your baby to solid foods, frozen fruits like bananas or berries might be good options. 
  • Pain relief medicines: For babies that are three months or older, you can give them pain relief medicines like paracetamol. However, make sure you administer the medicines as directed by your physician to avoid overdosing.

Teething Remedies to Avoid 

It is necessary to seek health solutions for your baby’s teething pain. However, there are some teething remedies that can worsen the symptoms, causing harm to your baby's oral health.

  • Using numbing gels: Avoid using numbing gels or creams on your baby’s teeth as they mostly contain benzocaine. Benzocaine induces a state of methemoglobinemia (increased level of hemoglobin that cannot carry oxygen), thus decreasing the amount of oxygen in circulation.5
  • Teething tablets that contain belladonna: Just like numbing gels, some teething tablets contain ingredients that cause unpleasant side effects (e.g., belladonna). Belladonna is unsafe when taken orally and can cause enlarged pupils, rapid heartbeat, and fever.
  • Use of amber teething necklaces: Amber teething necklaces are made of baltic amber beads that are strung together. There is a popular belief that amber teething necklaces offer pain relief to a baby’s sore gums. However, they can cause harmful effects such as choking and death and should be avoided.

Your baby’s pediatrician will provide medical advice during your baby’s first dental checkup. Visiting a pediatrician will be helpful for many parents who are nursing a baby.

When to Call Your Doctor About Teething

Teething is a natural developmental process. Even though it is uncomfortable for most babies, it does not cause harm. If your baby cries too often and you are not certain it is because of painful teething, then you should see a doctor. Routine dental checkups are also essential.

If your baby shows severe symptoms like high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or rashes, you should see a pediatrician as the baby might be suffering from an illness.

When Does Teething Stop? (+ First Tooth Eruption)

A baby’s teeth are called primary teeth (permanent teeth will later replace them). Also, babies are normally born with 20 primary teeth below their gum line. 

Each tooth erupts until the child has all teeth at about three years of age. Thus, while a baby’s first tooth erupts around 5 to 10 months, tooth eruption continues until the baby is about 33 months old.

Resources

Baby teething symptoms.” National Health Service. 1 February 2019. 

Macknin, Michael, et al. “Symptoms Associated with Infant Teething: A Prospective Study.” Pediatrics, Vol. 105,4, (2000): 747-752. 

Teething.” American Dental Association.

Teething or Sick: How to Tell in Your Baby.” Franciscan Health. 4 December 2019.

Sachdeva, Rajesh, et al. “Benzocaine-induced Methemoglobinemia.” Texas Health Institute Journal, vol.30,4, (2003): 308-310.

"Anatomy and Development of the Mouth and Teeth." Stanford Children's Health.

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