Beginning anywhere from ages four to six months, your baby will likely get her first new tooth. The first teeth to appear are usually the two front bottom teeth, called the central incisors. The four upper front teeth, also incisors, are normally the next to erupt. The remaining teeth, including molars and eyeteeth, will break through periodically until your child is about 2 1/2 years old and has 20 teeth all together.
Expect your baby to experience some discomfort and side effects during teething. While many people believe that a host of symptoms are associated with teething, the most widely recognized by doctors are:
- restlessness or difficulty sleeping
- increased saliva, drooling
- a desire to chew on everything within grasping distance.
Signs of teething in a baby's mouth can also include swollen, tender gums where a new tooth is coming through. These symptoms may begin three to four days before a tooth pushes through and last two to three days after it makes its appearance. Fever, even low grade, has never been proven to be associated with teething. So if your baby has a fever, please consult your doctor.
If your baby is showing discomfort from teething, there are things you can do to help him feel better:
- Try simple distractions such as cuddling, rocking, or walking around with your baby.
- Use your fingers to massage irritated or swollen gums for two-minute intervals as often as necessary.
- Wrap a piece of ice in a wet cloth and rub the spot. Be careful that the ice doesn't slip out of the cloth and into baby's mouth, since this is a choking hazard.
- Allow your child to massage her own gums by gnawing on a teething ring. A chilled (but not frozen) teething ring or wet washcloth can be extremely comforting. Avoid using teethers once baby's teeth appear, since the teeth could puncture a soft teething ring.
- Offer chilled baby foods such as applesauce or pureed fruit to a child already accustomed to eating solids. Do not use popsicles, frozen bananas, carrots, or any other non-pureed food as these pose a choking hazard.
- If your baby has excessive drooling, avoid dehydration by replacing lost fluids with diluted juice or water. You will also want to keep your baby's face and clothes dry to prevent rashes or irritation. A bib may help protect clothing from wetness.
- If the above methods don't seem to work, ask your child's physician about using medicated ointments such as Zilactin Baby medicated gel, Hyland's Teething Gel or Tablets, Baby Orajel Teething Pain Medicine, or Baby Anbesol.
- If nothing seems to work, consult with your pediatrician about trying systemic analgesics such as infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not use baby aspirin, which has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a serious and potentially life-threatening disease.
As with so many aspects of parenting, teething can be a difficult stage for you and your baby to endure. But remember, this too shall pass and before you know it, your little one will have a beautiful, toothy grin.