When babies start teething, it can be an exciting milestone. Those first teeth are not only adorable, they will eventually help your baby chew foods and speak clearly. Unfortunately, it’s often an uncomfortable process when babies start getting teeth. To make matters worse, the teething process is different for every baby and it is not always easy to tell when babies start cutting teeth.
If your child is one of those lucky babies who goes through the teething process without much discomfort, you typically do not need to worry much about when your baby starts getting his or her teeth. Just make sure to be vigilant so you can begin brushing your baby’s teeth daily as soon as that first tooth does emerge.
If your child experiences significant discomfort when he or she starts cutting teeth, try the below techniques for relieving teething pain. If the discomfort persists and those techniques do not appear to help, it is a good idea to speak with a pediatric dentist or your child’s pediatrician to make sure teething is truly the cause of the discomfort.
When Do Babies Start Teething?
It really varies in terms of when babies start getting teeth; there is no one “normal” age at which the first tooth emerges. Some babies are born with teeth while others don’t see a single tooth until after their first birthday.
That said, many children get their first tooth between ages six and ten months. Typically, the lower central incisors (the two front teeth on the bottom) are the first to erupt (i.e., break through the gums). Most children will have their full set of primary teeth by age three.
What Are Signs of Teething?
Given the wide variability in when babies start getting teeth, how can parents tell if their babies are teething? The truth is that it can sometimes be difficult to know for sure.
Classic signs of teething include:
- increased drooling,
- increased desire to chew or bite on objects,
- difficulty sleeping,
- refusing to eat,
- sore or tender gums, and
- rubbing the cheeks and/or gums.
Some of these symptoms of teething in infants are easily confused with normal parts of early childhood development that are unrelated to teething. For example, “mouthing” – that is, babies sticking objects inside their mouths – is a natural way for babies to explore and learn about the objects around them, but can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a desire to chew on objects to relieve teething pain.
Others of these teething symptoms, such as irritability and refusal to eat, could be signs of potentially serious medical issues wholly unrelated to teething. If your child experiences persistent discomfort and none of the techniques described below provides relief, or if you otherwise feel concerned, it is a good idea to check in with your child’s pediatrician.
Keep in mind that, although fever and diarrhea have sometimes been anecdotally reported as signs of teething, the American Dental Association does not consider them to be normal teething symptoms. If your child is experiencing diarrhea or a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, you should contact your child’s pediatrician.
How Can I Relieve My Baby’s Teething Pain?
Counterpressure is one of the best ways to relieve the soreness caused by the soon-to-emerge teeth pressing against your child’s gums. Try gently rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger or allowing your child to chew on a dry washcloth or teething toy (preferably one made from solid rubber or food-grade silicone). You can also try chilling the washcloth or teether before giving it to your baby, as cold temperatures are another good way to provide relief for sore gums.
What Teething Pain Remedies Should I Avoid?
We strongly discourage the following teething pain remedies:
- Homeopathic teething tablets. The FDA has warned consumers that homeopathic teething tablets containing belladonna, such as those marketed by CVS and Hyldand’s Inc., pose an unnecessary risk to infants and children. Belladonna, also known as Deadly Nightshade, is a toxic plant. It can cause symptoms such as fast heart rate, seizures, difficulty breathing, agitation, disorientation, and hallucinations.
- Teething gels and creams containing benzocaine or lidocaine. Benzocaine is a local anesthetic used in teething creams and gels such as Orajel. The FDA has urged parents not to use topical teething medications containing Benzocaine because of the risk of methemoglobinemia, a serious – and potentially fatal – condition that affects the blood cells. Lidocaine viscous is a prescription local anesthetic used to numb the mouth and throat. The accidental ingestion of too much lidocaine by infants or young children can result in seizures, severe brain injury, heart problems and death. As a result, the FDA has warned that viscous lidocaine should not be used to treat infants or children with teething pain.
- Liquid-filled teething rings. These teething rings may break open and release liquid into your child’s mouth. Exactly how harmful this is depends on a number of factors, including what type of liquid the manufacturer used to fill the ring and whether the liquid is contaminated with any bacteria. We recommend avoiding the risk altogether by sticking to teething rings made of solid rubber or food-grade silicone.
- Teething necklaces and bracelets. The FDA has warned that teething jewelry poses serious risks, including choking, strangulation, mouth injuries and infection.
- Teething biscuits. Teething biscuits typically contain sugar or other fermentable carbohydrates (sugary or starchy foods that break down into sugars inside the mouth), which can lead to cavities.
When Should I Take My Child to a Pediatric Dentist?
As soon as babies start getting teeth, they can start getting cavities. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends bringing your child to see a pediatric dentist as soon as the first tooth emerges or by your child’s first birthday (whichever is first). It is also extremely important to begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they emerge.
Why Should I Choose Hurst Pediatric Dentistry?
Dr. Lin is a board-certified pediatric dentist who has lots of experience working with babies and helping to make their first dental checkups a pleasant experience. When your baby starts teething, Dr. Lin can clean and examine your baby’s tooth (or teeth) and demonstrate proper brushing technique to help keep your baby’s teeth healthy and free of cavities. He can also discuss strategies for alleviating teething pain and discomfort. Contact us today at (817) 510-6400 to schedule your baby’s first dental checkup.
Hurst Pediatric Dentistry is located in Hurst, TX, and provides teething advice and dental checkups for babies in DFW.