Everything You Need to Know About Teething

Lucky for you, cutting teeth doesn’t happen all at once. (So you have about three fussy years ahead of you!)  Transitioning from their gummy grin to a mouthful of pearly whites takes about three years to complete.  By the age of 3, your little one should have a complete set of chompers to care for (but you’ll need to help out for a few more years until he gets better at it).

WHEN THE TEETH DEVELOP

Even before your baby made his entrance into the world, his teeth were developing.  In the womb, tooth buds, or milk teeth, start to form.  Although it is possible for a baby to be born with teeth, most will sprout their first tooth between 4 and 7 months old.

Want to know the exact order of emergence of your child’s teeth? Check out this guide.

HOW THE TEETH DEVELOP

If you’re one of the lucky ones, your baby will breeze straight through the teething process.  If you’re one of us, the tired ones who go through every trick in the book to ease the pain, you’ll probably be experiencing a few of these symptoms:

  • Drooling (which can lead to a facial rash)
  • Gum swelling and sensitivity
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Biting behavior
  • Refusing food
  • Sleep problems

It’s important to note that teething can cause a variety of problems, but if the symptom worries you and you’re not sure of the exact cause, check with your doctor as soon as possible.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING

There’s no miracle cure to speed up the process, but you can try a few tricks to help ease the pain.

  • Try using a frozen washcloth, refrigerated pacifer or teether, or a frozen carrot (a large one so that you can hold on to one end).
  • Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger.  The pressure distracts their brains from the pain.
  • Try an over-the-counter, topical anesthetic to numb the gums. Be aware of 2 hazards associated with numbing gel: 1) The FDA warns that benzocaine productsshouldn’t be used on children under 2 without guidance from a doctor.  In rare cases, it causes methemoglobinemia, a condition in which the amount of oxygen in the blood drops to dangerous levels. 2) Your baby might swallow some of the medication with their saliva, numbing his throat and relaxing his gag reflex which could cause choking.
  • Check with your doctor (again, check with your doctor) and they might suggest an over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen (but NEVER aspirin!)
  • Some parents swear by homeopathic teething drops and tablets, but the FDA has recalled many of these products due to safety concerns.  Check with your doctor first.
  • Who better to ask than other parents dealing with the same issue? Check out the suggestions from a few other parents at BabyCenter.

Even before the first tooth emerges, you should be cleaning your baby’s gums at least twice a day by gently wiping them with a clean piece of gauze or washcloth.  Once the first tooth erupts, pull out the toothbrush! Make sure it’s soft-bristled and size appropriate for your little one, and gently brush the tooth with water.  When two teeth appear that are touching, you should start flossing.

WHAT’S NEXT

Sit tight and try to maintain some sanity.  The teething process will take about three years.  After that, you’ve got about a three year break before you debut in your new role as the Tooth Fairy.