Teething syndrome—or simply “teething”—is a normal process that infants go through as their teeth break, or cut, through their gums.
Babies normally start teething when they are six months old. By the time a child is three, he or she will have a first or primary set of teeth.
Each infant has a unique mix of symptoms during teething. However, the most common symptoms are irritability and a lack of appetite.
Normally, babies will show at least one or two of the following symptoms when they begin to teeth, including:
- chewing on solid objects
- crying and crankiness
- inability to sleep
- loss of appetite
- sore and tender gums
- red and swollen gums
Babies are born with a full set of teeth underneath their gums. When they are between the ages of six and nine months, these teeth begin to break or 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 two to two and a half years.
While teething is a natural process, there are some tried and true methods to help relieve your baby’s discomfort.
You can try rubbing your child’s gums with a damp wash cloth, a clean finger, or a special gum-rubbing finger pad. Or use a teething ring. Babies can chew on these to ease the discomfort. If you can, chill a teething ring in the freezer beforehand. This provides pressure on the gums along with a soothing coolness. You should never freeze the ring completely because it can break and possibly choke your infant.
With time, begin to introduce harder foods, like cold fruit and vegetables, to your baby’s diet. Make sure to stay with the child at all times, so you can monitor his or her chewing and prevent choking.
During teething, a baby’s constant drooling can irritate his or her skin. Use a bib to keep your baby’s chin dry as best as possible.
If your infant is really having a tough time, you might want to give him or her infant Tylenol to relieve any discomfort. You can also apply a teething gel. However, avoid gels that contain choline salicylate and benzocaine. These are not safe to be eaten by infants, since they can reduce the levels of oxygen in the blood.
According to the National Institutes of Health, you should never:
- tie a teething ring around the infant’s neck
- cut a child’s gums to speed the teething process
- give a baby aspirin or rub it on the gums
- use alcohol on the baby’s gums
- put completely frozen objects directly on the gums
- use teething powders (NIH)
Many parents believe that fever and diarrhea are also symptoms of teething. However, this is not the case. Contact your doctor if your baby develops a fever or diarrhea, or if he or she is having continued discomfort.