It’s hard as a parent to see your little one uncomfortable. It’s usually tough to pinpoint the exact cause of their discomfort with an infant who can’t communicate well. Sometimes a baby can just seem to be acting differently and you may have no idea what could be wrong, but one of the most common causes of pain and fussiness in babies is teething.
Most infants will start teething within the first seven months of life. The symptoms and experience can vary greatly from child to child. Your baby may have a very difficult time when their teeth are coming in or you may not even realize they’re cutting a tooth until it’s already exposed.
While we won’t really know how our babies will respond to each teething episode, every time will be a learning experience for how you can help them cope with the pain. Fortunately, there are a variety of remedies and ways to soothe your teething baby and help bring them some relief.
What Is Teething?
Infants are born with all 20 teeth developed, but sitting below the gum line . Teething is the process by which their teeth breakthrough the gums. It’s also referred to as “cutting” of the teeth.
When your baby is teething, they typically start experiencing symptoms several days before the actual tooth comes through the gum. A baby can cut their first tooth anywhere between 4 and 10 months, but it usually occurs around the 6 month mark. There should be no cause for concern if their first tooth breaks through earlier or later than this range.
You will typically see your child’s teeth come out in this order:
- Central incisors between 6 and 12 months old
- Lateral incisors between 9 and 16 months old
- First molars between 13 and 19 months old
- Canine teeth between 16 and 23 months old
- Second molars between 22 and 24 months old
Signs & Symptoms
Unfortunately, teething can be a very painful experience for a baby. Their symptoms may last over the course of a day or two through several weeks. Some teeth may also be more sensitive than others. For example, just because your baby experienced a terrible time cutting their central incisors, doesn’t mean it will be the same for the canines.
Although not all babies will experience these signs and symptoms at the same time, there’s a general age range and warning signs we can follow. Teething can happen anywhere from 6 to 24 months old. When we recognize the signs that our baby is teething, we can quickly figure out a remedy and how to help our child.
Sometimes teething symptoms can be masked by a cold, sickness, or even growth spurt. I never realized my daughter was teething at the time until I saw the tooth coming through.
When I looked back on that previous week I thought, oh, that explains why she was a little extra fussy and woke up in the middle of the night the past few days. It was never extreme enough that I picked up on her acting differently. Then, with her molars, she was much more irritable and waking up crying from naps and bedtime. By then, I was aware that the teething did change her behaviors.
Here are the clear signs and symptoms of baby teething. If you see some of these signs all together, and your baby is in one of those age ranges, assume they could be teething.
- Drooling excessively
- A stronger need to bite or chew on anything
- Refusing their normal food or drinks
- Irritability or increased fussiness
- Swollen or red gums
- Change in sleeping patterns
- A white spot (tooth) visible below the gum
- Chewing on their hands or rubbing/playing with their ears, cheeks, or hair.
- Runny nose or cough
If you notice any of the following symptoms, be sure to keep an eye on it and call your pediatrician or dentist because these may not be normal:
- Fever (especially over 101 F)
If your baby is experiencing these symptoms, you can take a look in their mouth for signs of teething. You should not see the tooth erupting out of the gum while your child is showing symptoms.
Once the tooth is making it’s way up to the surface, the gum tissue may appear slightly red or swollen. You might also see a white spot around the area which is the tooth coming through.
The worst teething experience is while the tooth is still below the surface. Once the tooth finally comes out of the gum is when they get relief and their symptoms should disappear.
As your baby grows into a toddler and is able to express himself more, it will be easier for you to understand their pain. They may point to their face, jaw, ears, or mouth or even use words to let you know whats bothering them.
How long will this last?
Teething is an ongoing process through the first 2 years of age. The 20 teeth are already formed deep beneath the gum line, but they only cause your baby pain when they are about to break through.
It’s estimated that it can take anywhere from 1-7 days per tooth from when it starts causing irritation to when it fully erupts. The symptoms typically only last a few days, so if baby is experiencing discomfort for an extended period of time, it’s safe to assume it is not from teething.
Most babies begin to teethe between 4 to 7 months of age. As a general guide, your little one’s teeth will most likely emerge within the following timeline windows:
4 to 12 months
This is when the initial teething process will start. The first ones to come through around 5-7 months should be the lower central incisors (two bottom middle teeth). They typically come out together or within a few days of each other, but they could also be spread apart in time. Somewhere around 8 to 12 months, your baby’s upper central incisors (two top middle teeth) will come out.
9 to 16 months
Also, between 9 and 16 months, the upper and lower lateral incisors (top and bottom teeth next to the middle ones) will appear.
13 to 23 months
Between 13 and 19 months, your toddler’s first molars will appear at the bottom and the top. The molars may be the toughest ones to come in because they’re the largest. Soon after that, their canine teeth (the sharp, pointed ones) will start to come through on the top and bottom as well, between 16 and 23 months.
23 to 31 months
The final teeth that will come in are your toddler’s second molars (very back teeth). Hopefully by now your child can express the pain and discomfort they may be feeling and where it hurts them.
How to soothe the pain
There are a few ways to help your baby feel better during the dreaded teething time. Putting pressure on the sore gums helps to take away the pain. There are also a variety of teething toys, home remedies, and over-the-counter medications that are helpful. Here are some ideas to help soothe your teething baby:
Use cold (not freezing) temperature
You may have heard to freeze teething toys or washcloths, but professionals now oppose that because the frozen temperature can actually hurt the gum tissue. Babies gums are very soft and sensitive, especially when swollen from an erupting tooth.
Try putting a washcloth or teething ring in cold water and keep it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it. You can also refrigerate pacifiers, spoons, toys, bottle nipple, or really anything that’s safe for them to bite and chew on.
Apply firm pressure
Use a clean finger or cold, wet washcloth to firmly press on or massage your baby’s gums. Utilize time during diaper changes or after a feeding while you’re still holding them to get your finger in there. Let them bite down on your finger and the washcloth and that should really make them feel better.
If your baby isn’t fully eating solid foods yet, place cold (not frozen) fruits or vegetables (strawberries, carrots, cucumber, orange) in a silicone teether, like this one. You may want to replace the food after 10 minutes or so once it starts getting warm again.
You can start giving your baby food in these teethers as soon as your pediatrician gives the ok to begin solids. Stick with the silicone ones, as they’re much easier to clean than mesh.
I loved wearing these silicone teething necklaces while breast feeding my baby. She always tried to grab for my necklaces, mouth, or whatever she could get her flailing hands on while nursing. Wearing these gave her the option to grab for something that I wouldn’t mind her pulling on.
For teething, they’re made of a soft silicone that babies love to chew on. So when you’re carrying your infant on your shoulder, they can have something to grab and soothe their gums at the same time. It’s not exactly a fashion statement, but if it works, wear them all you want!
Acetaminaphen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin)
Inflammation from teething can stimulate the nerves that cause pain. These pain relievers should reduce the pain and swelling associated with teething and can reduce a fever, as well.
Acetaminophen is completely safe for an infant to take over 2 months of age. Ibuprofen is only recommended to children over 6 months of age. When I have given these pain relievers to my babies for teething or after immunizations, I can see it going into effect within just a few minutes.
Your baby’s face is probably feeling pretty sore from the pressure of their teeth coming in. You can apply the same firm pressure you do on their gums to their cheeks and face. Just rub in a circular motion on their cheek and you can even use lotion to make it easier.
Breastfeeding or bottles may be very soothing to your baby. Depending on the child though, they could be aversive to eating as well. Just make sure they’re getting enough to eat if feedings hurt them too much. Breast milk can increase the antibodies to build their immune system.
Boost their immune system
Giving your baby probiotics and/or Vitamin D can also help to boost immunity in your child which they may need while teething. Ever notice that they seem to get a runny nose or cough while they’re teething? It may be because teething causes a decrease in immunity.
Babies are typically Vitamin D deficient (especially breast-fed babies) because they’re not collecting enough from the sunshine and it doesn’t come through breast milk. Vitamin D drops help to boost their Vitamin D levels and are safe to use from birth.
Probiotics work to build healthy gut flora in a baby’s digestive system to increase immunity. These Cultrelle Probiotics are specifically safe for children over 1 year old.
Some moms swear by these seemingly natural Hyland’s Oral Pain Relief tablets for their babies. They are claimed to be safe and you can get them over-the-counter in any pharmacy or grocery store, but keep an eye out for any reaction in your child.
Mama Natural has a great recipe to make your own teething biscuits for your baby. This way you don’t have to worry about the questionable ingredients and additives in the packaged ones. If your opting for something quicker to pick up at the store, these Happy Baby teethers are still tasty and the ingredient list is pretty good.
This is a newer homeopathic remedy out there for teething babies. The baby wears this necklace made of Baltic Amber and it releases a natural component, succinic acid, through the skin in order to help soothe your baby’s teething pain. They have been known to provide noticeable calming and soothing benefits without any secondary effects like other medicines.
Ginger is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. Just peel some ginger (you can get it in your local grocery store) and rub it on your baby’s gums. If they don’t like the taste, make it milder by soaking it in warm water to make a tea.
Stock up on bandana bibs
Your baby will start drooling A LOT. It’s totally normal and it’s just their body producing excess saliva that their little bodies are not mature enough to swallow yet. Just keep drying the areas around her mouth, neck, and chest to avoid irritation that may flare up.
These bandana bibs are perfect for younger babies and all day wear. They start up high on the neck to catch drool quickly and are super soft and comfortable for your baby. There’s no need to apply any lotions, just keep that area clean and dry.
Since your baby may often drop his teething toys and not be able to get them back himself, there are also bibs with built in chewy tabs or teethers at the bottom. This makes a teether easily accessible for your baby when they need it at any time.
Give them plenty of snuggles, rest, and food
Your baby may be reluctant to eating around the time of teething. It hurts their mouths too much to chew and they’re cranky and tired. Make sure they’re still getting adequate nutrients even if it’s just from milk.
When they are overly fussy, try putting them down for more naps because rest will help them regain some energy. They may be extra cuddly and clingy so give them the closeness they need to feel better.
Your baby will be trying to stick anything and everything in their mouth both to explore and soothe their gums. Teething toys are a great option to give your baby for relief and at least you know they are safe objects for baby to be putting in their mouth. They can provide soothing of those symptoms, while also keeping them entertained.
What’s great about most infant toys is that they’re multi-sensory, so they stimulate all of their senses. If it’s good for a teether, it’s probably also good for working on a baby’s grasping, vision, hand-eye coordination, and cause-and-effect.
Young babies learn through play and they explore using their mouths in the early teething stages. Therefore, if you hand a baby a toy, they probably will be putting it in their mouth.
Offer your child a variety of toys with different shapes, textures, and features. There are so many options out there that may be squeezable, bumpy, vibrating, rubbery, or cooling. All can be helpful for some babies, but not others.
Some infants prefer a harder surface to chew on, whereas others like a gummy surface. It can be a bit of trial-and-error to see what works best for your baby in particular.
Some of my favorite teethers
Here are some options that are all made of food-grade silicone, BPA free, PVC-free, and phthalate-free to keep your little one safe from ingesting any harmful chemicals.
This Nuby teether provides your little one with an easy to hold ring handle for small hands. It also has a soft gummy feeling with tiny massaging bristles where your baby can chew and chomp to soothe those sore gums.
This silicone teether by Itzy Ritzy has large holes that your child can easily slip their hands right into. The super flexible silicone allows the baby to bend it in many different directions while manipulating it in their hands and mouth. It has a textured side with little bumps to massage their gums and they will love playing with and chewing this toy all day!
This MAM Mini Teether provides cooling and massage to baby’s sore gums to provide relief from teething symptoms. It’s filled with purified water and can be placed in the refrigerator for a cooling effect. It’s easy to grab and hold for little hands that can’t quite manipulate many objects yet.
There’s a variety of structures and textures to stimulate their sense of touch and improve coordination. It also comes with a clip to keep on your baby’s clothing so they don’t lose it!
This Sophie the Giraffe teething toy is a bit overpriced compared to most teethers on the market, however some children can’t live without it! It’s been around for a long time and always has been one of the best teethers on the market. The giraffe is easy for little one’s to grasp and the soft rubbery feet fit perfectly in their mouth and are comforting to chew on.
If your baby is constantly chewing on their hands, you might want to use a teething glove, like this one by Itzy Ritzy. If they can easily bring their hands to their mouth, they can use these gloves! The food-grade silicone is textured to massage your baby’s gums while they chew on it.
This is great to use if your baby doesn’t have the fine motor coordination yet to grasp objects and bring them to his mouth. Just make sure you don’t keep them on for long periods of time. Babies need to explore with their hands and you don’t want them to lose that sensory and developmental component as well.
This Comotomo silicone teether has little prongs that fit nicely in your baby’s mouth and textured ends to massage sore gums. It’s made of soft, flexible silicone The ring also makes it very simple to grasp for young babies.
This BPA-free banana teether has small, easy-to-hold loops that baby’s hands fit perfectly into. There are small textured nubs on the end for your baby to use to massage their gums while also you can use to ‘brush their gums.’
This Infantino Cuddly Teether has lots of brightly colored, different textured surfaces for baby to explore, chew on, and play with. Your baby will love playing with this as a toy and also appreciate the relief it can give them while they’re biting it.
This vibrating grape teether can bring quick relief to your baby. The movement and pressure from the vibrations really help to soothe sore gums. The soothing vibration is activated when babies chomp, which softly massages their little gums.
Early teeth and mouth care
It’s important to take care of your baby’s mouth after the teething symptoms go away and those little teeth have sprouted up. Even when they don’t have teeth, the residue from food and milk will buildup on their gums and tongue. Run a wet washcloth over your baby’s gums everyday, in order to keep them free from buildup.
Once they are a little older, you can start gently brushing their new teeth and gums with a fluoride-free baby toothpaste and an extra soft bristled brush. Start a routine before bedtime and when they wake up to always brush their teeth.
Before their teeth come in, it’s safe to brush your baby’s gums with a soft bristled rubber or silicone finger brush like this one. This will help remove milk residue and also feel great on their sore gums.
Once they have a couple teeth, they can start using a soft bristled regular toothbrush like this.
You can start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride-free toothpaste once their teeth start sprouting up. I highly recommend Tom’s of Maine Flouride-free Toddler toothpaste when you’re ready to start using it. It’s got a great taste and kids love it!
Once they learn how to spit (around 2 years old), you can use a small amount of children’s toothpaste with fluoride and a kid’s toothbrush.
Start healthy dental habits early on and your child will be set up to have healthy teeth and gums for awhile!
While there are certain patterns in child development, no two babies are truly alike! What works to soothe one child when they are teething may not work for another. No matter how you choose to help your little one grow, we are confident that you already have everything in you that you need to be a great mom or dad. We hope that you find what works for your baby and that you can help soothe them during the painful teething process. As always, we are here to help!
There really is no way to gauge exactly how long teething lasts, but fortunately, no matter the age or stage of teething your child is in, there are multiple ways that you can help soothe them and bring relief. One of the best ways that you can help your baby or toddler is by providing a variety of fun and engaging teething toys for babies!
This can be a tough time for you and your little one, especially because it may seem like there’s no end in sight. It may seem like you’ve tried everything and they’re still in pain. The good news is that it is temporary and your baby should be and not knowing what to do when it seems like you’ve tried everything. But the good news is that teething toys can be an immense help! No matter which teething toys for babies you choose for your little one, we are hopeful that they (and you!) will find some relief!