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Babies have many milestones in their first year of life.
One of the biggest is starting to teethe, which is the process of babies growing teeth.
Teething starts before you can even see teeth poking out of your baby’s sweet smile.
By identifying the signs, you can know when your baby is teething and provide her with relief from any discomfort associated with cutting teeth.
Looking for Physical Symptoms
Expect signs as early as three months.
There is a wide age range for when babies start teething.
Some parents may notice signs as early as three months, with the tooth pushing through the gum between four and seven months.
Most children will have all 20 of their primary teeth by the age of three.
Looking for the signs of teething can alert you to examine your baby’s mouth for teeth, soothe his discomfort, and clean your baby’s mouth of bacteria.
Be aware that some babies will exhibit no signs of teething.
In these cases, checking your baby’s mouth can alert you to teeth pushing through.
Examine your baby’s mouth area.
If you suspect your baby is teething, you may want to check to see if you see any signs around her mouth.
You can do this by checking the skin around the mouth and then looking inside your baby’s mouth.
Make sure that your hands and fingers are clean before you examine your baby’s mouth to keep any bacteria that can cause infection at bay.
Check to see if you notice any drooling or if your baby’s mouth is extra wet.
This is a good sign that your baby is about to start or is already teething.
Look for a facial rash or rosy skin on your baby when you check for drooling.
Developing a facial rash is often a sign that babies are teething.
It may not be particularly dark, but if your baby’s skin appears more pink or red than normal, this could be a rash developing.
Peel back your baby’s lip very gently to examine her gums.
Be aware that you may see bulging gums, especially around the molars.
In other cases, you may notice a buildup of fluid that creates a bluish cyst.
This is completely normal and you should leave it alone.
Massage your baby’s gums as you feel for teeth or hard spots.
This can provide a bit of relief to your baby while helping you figure out if she is teething.
Notice excess sucking or biting.
Most babies will exhibit some physical symptoms of teething before the first tooth pushes through his gums.
Many babies will bite or suck on toys, fingers, or other objects.
If you notice that your baby seems to be biting or sucking things more often, this is a likely sign he is about to start or has begun teething.
Check if your baby is rubbing his gums with the items on which he is sucking or biting.
Many teething babies will rub their gums in addition to sucking and biting.
Watch your baby’s ears.
Babies often associate the pain of teething with their ears.
If you notice your baby pulling or batting at her ears in addition to other symptoms, she may be teething.
Be aware that it is common for babies to pull or play with their ears out of curiosity.
However, it can also be a sign of ear infection.
If you are not sure if the pulling is related to teething or an ear infection, which can be serious if left untreated, call your pediatrician.
Other signs that point toward an ear infection include a fever, having a cold, or acting fussy when pulling the ears, lying down, or drinking from a bottle.
Feel for a temperature.
If your baby’s cheeks or skin is pinker or feels warm to the touch, he may be running a mild temperature because of teething; however, you should be aware that teething will only cause a slight increase in temperature.
If your baby is running a high fever, he could be teething and have something causing the fever.
In this case, call the doctor to check if your baby needs to be seen.
Noticing Behavioral Signs
Observe your baby’s mood. In addition to the physical symptoms of teething your baby might have, she might also exhibit behavioral signs.
Two of the most common behavioral symptoms are irritability and excessive crying.
See if your baby is fussier than usual or even irritable despite attempts to comfort her.
This can be a result of pain or discomfort your baby feels from teething.
You may notice that your baby’s fussiness or irritability is worse in the evening because tooth eruption is more active at night.
Listen if your baby is crying more than usual or over the course of a few days.
This may signal teething, especially if your baby has other symptoms; however, you should also be aware that excessive crying can be a sign of gas, colic, or another medical condition such as an ear infection.
Check for changes in eating patterns.
Because teething can cause your baby discomfort in his mouth, it may affect his eating habits or patterns.
Make sure to pay close attention to how much or if your baby is eating, which can signal a tooth erupting or the onset of teething.
Watch to see if your baby suddenly prefers nursing or bottle-feeding if he usually eats solids.
This can be the result of a spoon or fork irritating your baby’s inflamed gums; however, your baby may prefer eating solids because the counter pressure from the utensils feels good on his gums.
Recognize that your baby may pull back from nursing or bottle-feeding because sucking puts uncomfortable pressure on his gums and ear canals.
Make sure to take your baby to the pediatrician if he is refusing to eat.
This can be a result of teething or another condition.
In either case, your doctor can help diagnose and treat the problem.
Pay attention to baby’s sleep.
Because tooth eruption happens mostly at night, the teething process may disrupt your baby’s ability to sleep at night and even nap.
Note changes in your baby’s evening habits, including wakefulness or disrupted sleep.
Your baby may also experience disruption to her nap schedule.
If your baby has these symptoms along with other signs of teething, she may be getting ready to cut teeth.
Remember that disrupted sleep from teething can also cause or increase your baby’s irritability or fussiness.
Comforting Your Baby
Massage baby’s gums.
Giving your baby’s gums a gentle massage can relieve any discomfort he is feeling.
In addition, this can help you feel any teeth pushing through or potential problems with your baby’s mouth.
Wash your hands before you massage your baby’s gums.
Be sure to thoroughly rinse off any soap residue your baby could ingest.
Use one or two fingers to rub your baby’s gums.
Apply gentle pressure and rub his gums in a circular motion.
Run a cold washcloth over your baby’s mouth and gums.
If you notice any signs of teething in your baby, especially drooling, use a cool washcloth to your baby’s benefit.
Not only can this soothe your baby’s discomfort, but it can also prevent a rash from developing on her mouth as well as remove bacteria buildup.
Use a clean washcloth washed in an unscented detergent for sensitive skin to ensure that this doesn’t irritate your baby’s delicate skin or gums.
Run the washcloth under cool or cold water and wring out any excess moisture.
Wipe the cloth over any parts of your baby’s mouth where there is drool.
After this, gently open your baby’s mouth and massage her gums with the washcloth.
Both of these can help remove bacteria buildup inside and outside your baby’s mouth.
Start your regimen of massaging and cleaning your baby’s gums as soon as you can.
Ideally, you’d start this immediately after her birth.
Offer baby a teething toy.
The counter pressure of chewing on a teething implement can help relieve any discomfort you baby is feeling.
From teething rings to teething biscuits, you can try any number of different toys to soothe your baby.
Put a moist washcloth in the refrigerator or freezer for 30 minutes and allow your baby to chew on it.
Make sure to not let the washcloth get rock hard because it can bruise your baby’s swollen gums.
Chill a rubber teething ring in the refrigerator and give it to your baby.
Be aware that you should never put rubber teething rings in the freezer or boil it to sterilize it.
These extreme temperature changes can damage the rubber or plastic and cause it to leak chemicals.
You should also make sure to never tie a teething ring around your baby’s neck, as this risks strangulation.
Give your baby cold food and water.
Anything cool can help relieve your baby’s discomfort.
Let your baby have a cold drink or a cold food to help him feel better.
This may also help a baby who is having trouble eating because of discomfort get vital nutrients.
Let your baby drink a bottle of ice or icy cold water if he is over six months.
If your baby is under six months, he can have a small amount (1–2oz) of ice-free water from a bottle or cup.
Don’t give water to babies more than one to two times per day unless recommended by your doctor.
Give your baby chilled foods such as yogurt, blended peaches, or applesauce to soothe gums.
You can also give him popsicles or freeze fruits such as bananas and plums in a baby feeder mesh bag.
This bag will keep gummed-off food from choking your baby.
Only give your baby teething biscuits or frozen and cold foods only if he is already eating solids.
Make sure your baby is sitting upright when you provide these options.
Take a pain reliever.
If your baby is older than six months, you can give her a dose of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Younger babies can take acetaminophen with approval from your doctor.
Pain medication can relieve discomfort and irritability.
Make sure to consult with your baby’s pediatrician before giving her any pain relievers.
Consider giving your baby a baby-formulated pain reliever of ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Follow the packaging instructions for dosing or ask your pediatrician if you are unsure.
Remember that you should never give your child aspirin unless specifically directed by your doctor.
Aspirin consumption in children can lead to Reye’s syndrome in children.
Be aware of what to avoid.
There are a lot of remedies that can soothe a teething baby, but there are also some from which you should steer clear.
Alcoholic remedies and teething gels or tablets can be harmful to your baby’s health.
Avoid doing the following to relieve discomfort in a teething baby:
Placing an aspirin against a tooth or the gums
Rubbing alcohol on your baby’s gums
Giving your baby a teething tablet
Massaging teething or numbing gels on your baby’s gums, because some of them contain medicines that can be dangerous for babies
Putting an amber necklace on your baby because they don’t work and pose a choking hazard
Dabbing whiskey on your baby’s gums can sedate the child and be dangerous
Talk to your dentist.
If you are concerned about your baby’s teething process, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
A dental examination can alert your dentist to potential problems and help the dentist develop a treatment for them.
Let your dentist know about your specific concerns.
You may want to inform your dentist about what signs and symptoms of teething your baby has exhibited as well as anything you’ve done to relieve them.