Teeth typically erupt through the gums between four and seven months of age, usually starting with the lower middle teeth (the “central incisors”). Don’t worry though if your child’s teeth don’t poke through until later. All children figure out how to chew up food when they’re ready for solids, even without teeth, and your little one will certainly have them well before they’re ready to gnaw on an ear of corn or chew the meat off a chicken bone!
What to Expect
When teeth start pushing against their gums, many infants experience some degree of discomfort, leading to restless nights for both them and their parents. During the day, you may notice increased fussiness and irritability in both of you as well! Some infants will have looser stools or a slight increase in temperature, and many will drool more. Temperatures over 101°F (38.3°C) are unlikely to be caused by teething alone though. Be sure to call your pediatrician if your child experiences this kind of fever lasting more than one or two days.
Things to Chew On
You can help your child feel better by giving them things to chew on. Your clean finger or knuckle may be enough, but something cold can sometimes provide even more relief. Silicone or latex teething rings or toys made to be chilled in the refrigerator are a good option. Even simpler, tie a knot in a clean, wet washcloth or cotton sock and place it in the freezer. Make sure to wash the cloth after use before offering it again. If your child is old enough for solids, you can offer cold or frozen fruits in a mesh feeder for them to gnaw on as well (think bananas, blueberries, or watermelon).
Especially before bed, a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen for infants over 6 months of age, can help everyone rest better tonight and be on their best behavior for tomorrow!
What to Avoid
We recommend NOT using gels that you rub on the gums. With all the extra drool, it barely stays in place long enough to have a benefit. Additionally the medicine numbs everything inside the mouth it contacts, including the tongue (some toddlers hate having a numb tongue more than the sore gums!) and the back of the throat, which can then put your child at risk of swallowing the wrong way. Products that contain belladonna are out as well: the side effects include irritability and agitation, the very thing you’re trying to fix. Finally, teething necklaces are known choking and strangulation risks, and there is no scientific proof that they help anyway.
In the end, know that this phase will pass too… Pretty soon, your sleepless nights will instead come from trying to figure out how to steal the tooth from under your child’s pillow without waking them up!