One of the sweetest moments of parenthood is the first real smile you get from your little one.
No longer a newborn but still very much a baby, the toothless grin that spreads across their little face for the first time is nothing short of miraculous.
It’s a particularly precious time in their development since it’s so often the time that they start sleeping for longer stretches and engaging with you more. Although it’s been quite some time, I remember those months as the time when I first started seeing my daughters’ personalities really begin to emerge.
But as most parents know, there is another milestone awaiting us. One that is far less enjoyable.
Lurking just below the surface of that adorable, gummy smile, is the source of future tears, pain, and crankiness. In fact, these tiny troublemakers are already making their slow and agonizing pilgrimage to the surface, ready to disrupt your nights and torment your days.
No bigger than a grain of rice, your baby’s first teeth can wreak havoc upon your smiling, happy child. One of the most difficult stages for babies (and their parents) is teething and as those baby teeth inch their way to the surface, they can cause discomfort, tender gums, and trouble sleeping.
Of all the symptoms of teething, fussiness is the most common.
How Long Does Fussiness from Teething Typically Last?
Most doctors agree that it can take anywhere from one to seven days to cut a tooth, but the fussing associated with teething is usually shorter. It’s safe to say that if your baby is showing teething symptoms for longer than a week, it might be something else and you should contact your pediatrician.
It’s hard to tell just how long it will take for a tooth to make its way to the surface of the gums and the time will vary with each child. Some babies can be uncomfortable for a few days before the tooth is visible and for others, it can take longer. Once the tooth breaks through, the pain is relieved and the symptoms should go away.
Typical Age for Teething
The age that teething begins will be different for each child. Some can start displaying symptoms as early as three months of age and some do not until a year or more.
Six months is the average age when you can expect to see that first tooth. By the time a child is two or three years old, all of their baby teeth will have come in and the teething process will be over.
There are several different stages of teething and knowing what’s happening beneath the surface can be helpful as you’re navigating this time. This is a general guide, but most teeth will emerge during the following windows.
4 to 7 months
Teething typically begins during these months and the first teeth to appear are the lower central incisors or the two bottom middle teeth. As babies begin to develop more advanced hand-eye coordination and mobility during this stage, they are more likely to grab objects and put them in their mouths, especially as it relates to teething.
It’s important to keep an eye on what your baby is putting in their mouth as their movement increases, making sure that they have age-appropriate toys close by.
8 to 12 months
By the time your baby is a year old, they will likely have their upper central incisors (the top two teeth) and their lateral incisors will also appear. The top and bottom lateral incisors are the teeth next to the middle teeth.
13 to 22 months
During this stage, the primary molars start coming in, followed by the canines. The first set of molars is located in the back of the mouth along the upper and lower jaw and the canine teeth are the pointy ones. Because the primary molars are so much larger and the canines are sharp, the symptoms associated with cutting them tend to be far more uncomfortable.
24 to 33 months
The time when the truly big teeth start coming through can be the most painful teething for your little one. The molars are the largest teeth that your baby or toddler will have to endure, but they can be the most difficult. The upside is that oftentimes, toddlers can talk to you about what’s wrong.
Common Signs Your Child is Teething
The first teething symptom you might notice is more fussiness than usual. But there are more common signs of teething the be on the lookout for, including:
- Excessive drooling
- An increased need to chew, bite, and suck
- Redness, irritation, or a rash due to extra saliva on the chin or cheeks
- Red, swollen, or bulging gums
- Changes in appetite
The excessive drooling can irritate the eustachian tubes which can then bother the inner ear. Some babies who have these symptoms may pull or tug on their ears, which is a symptom of an ear infection. Teething doesn’t cause ear infections, but sometimes the symptoms can overlap. If your baby has a fever or you suspect an ear infection, it’s important to contact your pediatrician.
Fever, rashes that aren’t from drooling, and diarrhea are not symptoms of teething. If your baby is experiencing any of these, it’s also a good idea to reach out to your physician.
How Long Will Teething Fussiness Last for Each Tooth?
Usually, symptoms associated with cutting a tooth will last a few days as the tooth makes its way to the surface of the gums. If symptoms last longer than a week with no sign of a tooth, contact your healthcare provider. Your baby’s distress could be a sign of another problem.
4 Simple Teething Remedies
When my daughters were babies, my grandmother often suggested rubbing bourbon or whiskey on their gums. I thanked her for the advice while quietly chuckling and proceeded to never follow her recommendation. Not only is rubbing alcohol on a baby’s gums dangerous and can damage the mouth, it doesn’t provide any relief.
While grandmothers and other well-meaning relatives might have similar prescriptions for teething, we’ve come up with some remedies that are safe to try and likely to offer some help and relief for your baby… and you.
1. Gum massage
With a clean finger, gently rub your baby’s gums. The pressure can provide some temporary relief.
If you’re out and about and don’t want to risk spreading germs or can’t constantly keep your finger in your baby’s mouth, Chewbeads offer a swanky alternative. Chewbeads are wearable teething toys… a cute necklace or bracelet for mom is also a safe and effective teether for baby.
2. Teething toys
Plastic and rubber toys that are safe for babies to chew on can soothe swollen gums. There are lots of safe and cute options for babies and toddlers. A universally favorite teething toy is Sophi la Giraffe.
3. Cold helps
Utilize cold to help with inflammation and pain. A cold or frozen wet washcloth works wonders on your baby’s gums. And as a bonus, the cloth helps absorb that extra drool.
The Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder works like a popsicle with cold, fresh fruit. It’s sure to be safe since the mesh keeps larger chunks out of your baby’s mouth.
Some teething toys and rings can be kept in the fridge or freezer and offer extra relief.
4. Pain medication
When the home remedies aren’t doing the trick, ask your pediatrician for some safe pain relief options. These may include acetaminophen like Tylenol or ibuprofen such as Motrin.
If you choose an oral teething gel, be sure that it’s free of benzocaine, like Dr. Talbot’s.