Everything you need to know about teething

From signs of teething to safe ways to soothe your baby's pain, here's what you need to know about teething.

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While every baby photo is cute, it’s especially true of a snapshot of your little one showing off her first tooth. But getting to that major milestone isn’t easy. Teething is synonymous with lots of fussiness, crying and sleepless nights. Read on to find out everything you need to know about teething.

When do babies start teething?

Typically, the first teeth come in around six months of age, but babies can start teething anywhere from six to 13 months. “I have seen them come in as early as four months, but that’s pretty rare,” says Jeffrey Bourne, a paediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

In what order do baby teeth come in?

The front incisors usually come in first. Typically, the bottom front teeth will make an appearance first, but sometimes it’s the top two. Next, the canines will arrive. Your baby’s eight molars usually come in between her first and third birthdays, so she will be teething for a long time!

How do I know if my baby is teething?

At two or three months, you’ll notice your baby start to drool and gnaw on things, including her fingers, your fingers and anything she can get her tiny little hands on. But that’s not a sign of teething, explains Bourne. “Teething is really when the teeth start to erupt,” he says. “You might not see them initially, but you can actually feel little bumps on the gums within a day or two when they start coming through. That’s when it hurts: when they’re poking up through the gums.”

Now you’ve probably heard that fever and diarrhea can be signs of teething, but they’re not. “Teething can cause drooling and irritability, but that’s it,” explains Bourne. “The reason people think teething causes fever, diarrhea and other symptoms is because sometimes babies develop a lot of viral illnesses at that time, so it’s just a coincidence. But teething doesn’t cause a true fever.”

Bourne explains that there are only two signs of teething:

1. Fussiness
You can’t blame your baby for being cranky during the teething process: It hurts! Irritability is a major symptom of teething. Expect your little one to be short-tempered and quick to cry during this period. Just like any other time when she is fussy, rocking, shushing and going for car rides can help soothe your baby.

2. Drooling
You’ve been warned: Lots of drooling is in store when your baby is teething. That’s because teething stimulates saliva, so be prepared with lots of bibs.

What are the best teething remedies?

Here are some paediatrician-approved teething remedies:

1. Chewing on something cold
Bourne recommends putting a clean, wet washcloth in a plastic bag and letting it cool in the fridge—your baby will love gnawing on that.

2. Teething rings
This teething remedy is a classic for a reason: It really works! A teething ring gives your baby something to chew on, and that pressure can help soothe aching gums. “Parents can put a teething ring in the refrigerator to cool it down,” says Bourne. “That’s always very useful.”

3. Teething toys
You should invest in a few teething toys, but not all teething toys are created equal. Bourne recommends the line of Sophie toys. “Those little giraffe toys are so popular,” he says. They aren’t just cute; they work! Pay attention to what teething toys are made of and how easy they are to wash: Your baby will be putting this toy in her mouth, so you want to be sure that it’s made of safe materials and easy to clean so you can prevent mould from growing inside.

A baby chewing on a teething toy11 awesome teething products

4. Pain meds
Some painkillers are perfectly safe to use as a teething remedy for babies six months and older. Bourne recommends acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advin, Motrin) and suggests that you only give it at bedtime if your baby is fussy. “It works really well, but I wouldn’t give it around the clock,” says Bourne. “Once at night for a couple of nights, when the teeth are coming through, is very reasonable.” Always check the label for the safe dosage for your baby’s weight.

What teething remedies are unsafe for babies?

1. Teething gels with benzocaine
This unsafe topical numbing cream is found in products like Orajel. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises parents not to use benzocaine teething gels on children younger than two, except under doctor supervision. Benzocaine can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition that can cause death.

2. Amber necklaces
“There’s a substance called succinic acid found in amber from the Baltic region, and it’s supposed to go through the skin to create an analgesic effect,” explains Bourne on how amber necklaces can help teething babies. But so far, there is no research that these necklaces actually work. “There’s no data at all that any is leached out into the skin,” he explains. Doctors also warn parents that the necklaces are a choking and strangling hazard. “They break really easily, so the beads can choke babies as well,” he says. “If parents insist on using them, we think babies definitely shouldn’t be put down in a bed or someplace where they’re not being supervised.” But at the end of the day, Bourne sees no benefit to the beaded jewellery. “No paediatrician I know recommends them because there is really no benefit to them at all,” he says.

3. Homeopathic teething tablets
This controversial remedy caused a stir when Hyland’s Teething Tablets were pulled off the market because they contained varying amounts of belladonna, an herb used as a painkiller that can be toxic. “But even after they were regulated, there are still problems with belladonna,” cautions Bourne. In late 2016, the FDA advised parents to stop using homeopathic teething tablets and gels after multiple incidents of babies and toddlers having seizures after taking them.

Read more:
How to clean a baby’s first teeth
What to do when your teething baby is refusing food

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