Although baby teeth develop in utero and your baby is born with all of their baby teeth, these teeth will reside below the gums for approximately the first six months of their life. At that point, they will start to erupt from the gum line and become visible in the mouth. This is known as teething and it generally starts around six months of age and continues until all 20 of your child’s primary teeth have erupted, which is usually around the age of 3.
As your baby’s teeth begin to come in, you may notice that their gums are suddenly red. They will also likely be sore and tender to the touch, which can cause a variety of behavioral changes in your child. Teething toddlers may be irritable and fussy, have trouble sleeping, lose their appetite, drool more than usual, and try to gnaw on hard objects. In some cases, your toddler may also have a low fever below 101°. It is important to note that diarrhea, vomiting, coughing, a rash, or a fever of a 101° or higher are not normal signs of teething. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, you should call your pediatrician.
In most cases, you can simply expect your child to have symptoms associated with sore and tender gums. While teething is a necessary stage of growth, there are a few things you can do to help your child through this difficult stage.
Give them something cold
Allowing your baby to put something cold in their mouths can help soothe the tenderness associated with teething. However, you should avoid frozen items because they can damage your baby’s newly erupted teeth. Instead, try using a cold pacifier, wet washcloth, or a teething ring made of rubber.
Feed them soft foods
Depending on their age, you may already be feeding softer foods. However, for older toddlers that are teething, providing them with softer foods may help to spark their appetite. Cool, soft foods like applesauce, yogurt, frozen fruit, or smoothies are especially good for sore mouths.
Massage their gums
Sometimes it can help to gently run your finger over their gums. You can also massage their gums with a cold washcloth or gauze pad.
Avoid certain teething remedies
There are a variety of suggestions for how to help a teething child. Unfortunately, not all of this is good advice. To help protect your child be sure to avoid topical numbing medications like lidocaine or benzocaine, herbal remedies, teething jewelry (necklaces, bracelets, or anklets), and giving too much acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
To care for your baby’s oral health, you will need to wipe down their gums with a clean cloth in the morning and before bed. Once their first tooth erupts, you will then need to start brushing with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a grain or rice). It is also recommended to schedule their first dental appointment after their first tooth has erupted. These practices help to prevent dental problems while your child’s teeth are still erupting. Once your child is around the age of 2 or 3 and knows how to spit, you can begin teaching them how to brush their own teeth and increase their toothpaste use to a pea-sized amount.
Dr. Marielena Torres is board certified and is constantly continuing her education to stay informed of the latest developments in pediatric dentistry. This allows her to offer patients and their parents the most cutting-edge care and education.