Teething

Definition

Teething is the growth of teeth through the gums in the mouth of infants and young children.

Information

Teething usually begins when a baby is between 6 and 8 months old. All 20 baby teeth should be in place by the time a child is 30 months old. Some children do not show any teeth until much later than 8 months, but this is usually normal.

  • The two bottom front teeth (lower incisors) usually come in first.
  • Next to grow in are usually the two top front teeth (upper incisors).
  • Then the other incisors, lower and upper molars, canines, and finally the upper and lower lateral molars come in.

The signs of teething are:

  • Acting cranky or irritable
  • Biting or chewing on hard objects
  • Drooling, which may often begin before teething starts
  • Gum swelling and tenderness
  • Refusing food
  • Sleeping problems

Teething does NOT cause fever or diarrhea. If your child develops a fever or diarrhea and you are worried about it, talk to your health care provider.

Tips to ease your child's teething discomfort:

  • Wipe your baby's face with a cloth to remove the drool and prevent a rash.
  • Give your infant a cool object to chew on, such as a firm rubber teething ring or a cold apple. Avoid liquid-filled teething rings, or any plastic objects that might break.
  • Gently rub the gums with a cool, wet washcloth, or (until the teeth are right near the surface) a clean finger. You may place the wet washcloth in the freezer first, but wash it before using it again.
  • Feed your child cool, soft foods such as applesauce or yogurt (if your baby is eating solids).
  • Use a bottle, if it seems to help, but only fill it with water. Formula, milk, or juice can all cause tooth decay.

You can buy the following medications and remedies at the drug store:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or ibuprofen can help when your baby is very cranky or uncomfortable.
  • Teething gels and preparations rubbed right on your baby's gums may help the pain for a short while. Be careful not to use too much.

What not to do:

  • DO NOT tie a teething ring or any other object around your child's neck.
  • DO NOT place anything frozen against your child's gums.
  • NEVER cut the gums to help a tooth grow in, because this can lead to infection.
  • Avoid teething powders.
  • NEVER give your child aspirin or place it against the gums or teeth.
  • DO NOT rub alcohol on your baby's gums.

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Revision

Last reviewed 11/12/2012 by Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

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