Definition

What is teething?

Teething is the process by which an infant’s first teeth (the deciduous teeth, often called “baby teeth” or “milk teeth”) sequentially appear by emerging through the gums, typically arriving in pairs. Teething usually begins between six and eight months. It can take several years for all 20 teeth to complete the tooth eruption. Though the process of teething is sometimes referred to as “cutting teeth”, when teeth emerge through the gums they do not cut through the flesh. Instead, hormones are released within the body that causes some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing the teeth to come through.

Teething is a natural part of an infant’s growth and development. Due to the pain and discomfort, it’s easy for parents to become anxious about the process. Know that the symptoms of teething will eventually pass, and that your child will one day have a healthy set of teeth thanks to your efforts to keep up with good oral hygiene. Any specific concerns or prolonged discomfort should be addressed with your child’s pediatrician or family doctor.

How common is teething?

Somewhere between 2 and 8 months (or later), your baby’s teeth will make their grand, grumpy entrance.

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of teething?

Each infant has a unique mix of symptoms during teething. The most common symptoms are irritability and a lack of appetite.

Teething can occur with many other signs and symptoms including:

  • Drooling
  • Chewing on solid objects
  • Crying and crankiness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sore and tender gums
  • Red and swollen gums

When should I see my doctor?

You must seek medical attention if your baby experiences these symptoms.

If your baby has any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes teething?

Babies are born with a full set of teeth underneath their gums. During the first year of life, these teeth begin to cut through the gums.

These teeth break through the gums in stages. Typically, the classic bottom teeth — often referred to as pegs — come in first, followed by the top middle teeth. From this point on, the remaining teeth will cut through the gums over a period of three years, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Some children may even get their full sets of teeth after 2 years of age.

The following is the general order of eruption of primary teeth:

  • Central incisors: 6-12 months of age
  • Lateral incisors: 9-16 months of age
  • Canine teeth: 16-23 months of age
  • First molars: 13-19 months of age
  • Second molars: 22-24 months of age

Between 6 to 12 years of age, the roots of these 20 “baby” teeth degenerate, allowing their replacement with 32 permanent “adult” teeth. The third molars (“wisdom teeth”) have no preceding “baby” version and generally erupt in mid to late adolescence. Because of their tendency to promote crowding and crooked orientation, they are often removed.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for teething?

Because this is a natural process, there are no risk factors for teething.

Diagnosis & Treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

 

How is teething diagnosed?

The dentist or hygienist might place your child on a table or have you hold your child on your lap to conduct the exam. Then the dentist or hygienist will likely:

  • Evaluate your child’s oral hygiene and overall health
  • Demonstrate proper cleaning techniques
  • Look for sores or bumps on your child’s tongue, inside the cheeks, and on the roof of the mouth
  • Evaluate the impact of habits such as pacifier use and thumb sucking

How is teething treated?

Many babies and children will have minimal or no symptoms when they are teething so will not need any treatment

However, the following may be useful for those who are having symptoms:

  • General advice: Gently rubbing over the affected gum with your clean finger may ease the pain. Many children find that biting on a clean and cool object is soothing (for example, a chilled teething ring or a clean, cold, wet flannel). Chewing on chilled fruit or vegetables may help. However, teething biscuits should be avoided as they contain sugar.
  • Medicine to help the pain: If your child is in pain with his/her teething, then giving paracetamol or ibuprofen may help. These should be given at the recommended doses for their age.

There is no evidence that complementary treatments are of any benefit for teething – for example, herbal teething powder.

  • Teething gels: There are teething gels available which contain a local anesthetic or mild antiseptic. The local anesthetic is usually lidocaine. Experts advise against using these gels for teething pain. This is because there is not much evidence that they help for very long and there is evidence that they can cause harm. There have been a number of cases where a baby has accidentally swallowed too much of the anesthetic and had serious consequences, including death. If you do choose to use a teething gel, follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely to be sure it is safe.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage teething?

If your teething baby seems uncomfortable, consider these simple tips:

  • Rub your baby’s gums. Use a clean finger or moistened gauze pad to rub your baby’s gums. The pressure can ease your baby’s discomfort.
  • Keep it cool. A cold washcloth, spoon or chilled teething ring can be soothing on a baby’s gums. Don’t give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold can be harmful.
  • Try hard foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might offer something edible for gnawing — such as a peeled and chilled cucumber or carrot. Keep a close eye on your baby, however. Any pieces that break off might pose a choking hazard.
  • Dry the drool. Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby’s chin. Consider applying a moisturizer such as a water-based cream or lotion.
  • Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is especially cranky, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Motrin, others) might help.

And you should not forget that you’ve been running a clean, damp washcloth over your baby’s gums every day. If not, now’s a great time to start. The washcloth can keep bacteria from building up in your baby’s mouth.

When your baby’s first teeth appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Until your child learns to spit — at about age 3 — use a smear of fluoride toothpaste no bigger than the size of a grain of rice.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: March 8, 2017 | Last Modified: March 8, 2017

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