Chew on This: Teething Tips for Babies & Toddlers

Teething just might be mother nature’s way of testing us – your baby is finally starting to sleep through the night and then, four to eight months in, teething begins. And while cutting teeth is an important milestone for your baby, like walking or talking, it’s not without its fair share of discomfort. Here’s our take on what to expect and how to help your child get to feeling better.

Teething for Babies

Did you know that babies are actually born with all of their undeveloped teeth already in their gums? They’re called tooth buds, and they’re the foundation of what becomes their baby teeth and eventually, their permanent teeth.

Baby teeth typically come in pairs, starting with the bottom middle teeth, followed by the top middle teeth. And by their first birthday, some babies have as many as eight teeth, and some have none at all! Your child should have at least one tooth by 18 months, so if a pearly white tooth hasn’t poked through yet, talk to your child’s pediatrician.

Some common signs your baby may be teething include; irritability, fussiness, drooling, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and biting. Sometimes parents report other symptoms around the same time as teething; a fever greater than 101° F, diarrhea, diaper rash or runny nose, but these symptoms are not normal and you should consult your pediatrician. 

Remember: your baby should have their first visit to the dentist by the time they get their first tooth, or by their first birthday.

Teething for Toddlers

While their first teeth are sharp and thin, their two-year molars are larger and squarely shaped, making for little more discomfort. For most children, these teeth come in between the 23-33 month mark.

The symptoms of teething are similar for toddlers, but luckily for them, two-year-olds and beyond have more options for managing their discomfort. By this age, toddlers are also able to better express themselves to communicate what they need.

A new symptom may emerge around the same time as your child’s molars; ear pain. Because of the location of these new teeth in the back of the mouth, your toddler’s ears may feel hot to the touch and you may catch your child tugging or rubbing at their ears. Teething, however, should not cause a fever. If your child has a fever greater than 101° F, it may be an ear infection and you should schedule an appointment with their pediatrician.

The good news is that once these molars have come in, your child should have all 20 of their baby teeth. For more information on these primary teeth and what to expect, visit our other blog.

What to Use

Your baby may have sore or tender gums as their teeth are just starting to come in. You can help by rubbing a clean finger, a cool spoon, or a cold washcloth along their gums. The ADA recommends that you look for teething rings made of solid rubber.

Other mom-approved recommendations include frozen fruits – like grapes or bananas – put into a mesh feeding bag for baby to chew on. Another option is filling their pacifier with water and freezing it. It’s cold, can’t be swallowed and baby can suck on it to soothe themselves.

If your child is big enough for solid foods, yogurt or applesauce is a relief and a sweet treat all in one! A frozen bagel is easy for little hands to hold and gnaw on to help cut those brand new little teeth. Mealtime for toddlers gives parents more options like smoothies, soups, and chilled fruits.

To address the excess drool your little one may be making, gently dab or wipe the excess saliva away with a soft washcloth. Avoid rubbing it away to protect delicate skin, and smear a little petroleum jelly on their chin to create a barrier to prevent further irritation.

What to Avoid

While there are lots of options for what’s safe for your baby to teethe on, there are just as many things to avoid to keep your child healthy.

As more homeopathic and natural remedies are marketed towards parents, it’s important to discern between what is going to cause more harm than good. In December 2018, the FDA released an official warning against amber teething necklaces as they present both a choking and a strangulation hazard.

Additionally, the FDA discourages the use of homeopathic teething tablets, after lab testing found belladonna far exceeding the amount claimed on the label. Belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade, is poisonous in high doses and can cause a number of problems stemming from an inhibited nervous system.

The FDA also recommends that parents not give their children under two years of age any products containing benzocaine, as they can carry serious risks and little to no benefits for babies. Benzocaine is available over-the-counter and is sold under product names like Orajel, Orabase, Anbesol, and Hurricane.

Lastly, if your baby just can’t get enough relief, consult your pediatrician about the proper dosage before giving your baby infants’ acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies 6 months or older).

And remember: baby aspirin is not safe for babies. Contrary to the name, baby aspirin is a low-dose aspirin meant for adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, when it’s given to children, it can sometimes lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but serious condition that causes swelling in the brain and liver. Only give your child aspirin at the direction of their pediatrician. And no matter the age, never rub aspirin along the gums for pain relief: it won’t do anything for pain and may leave a burn on gums.

Chew on This

Every child is different. Some may have an easy time teething, but most children will experience at least some level of discomfort. We hope these tips help soothe both you and your child as you get through the teething stage.

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