If you’re a first-time mom-to-be, you no doubt have a lot of questions, one of which is likely to be, “At what age do babies start teething?” You may also want to know the symptoms of teething in babies and how to soothe a teething baby.
Teething is a significant milestone in a child’s development, but unlike milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, and talking, many parents dread it. This is because we anticipate sleepless nights pacing the floor trying to calm and comfort a screaming, inconsolable baby.
While I can’t promise there won’t be sleepless nights, knowing what to expect and being prepared will makes things easier. With this in mind, I will answer the questions above so that you can be ready when the time comes.
At what age do babies start teething?
Teething usually begins at about six months of age, but it can occur at any time between three and twelve months of age. Most children develop all twenty of their primary teeth by the time they are 3.
The first set to appear is the lower front teeth. The upper front teeth typically appear one to two months afterward.
What are the symptoms of teething in babies?
There is no particular set of teething symptoms. A dominant teething sign with one child might not even be present with another. If you and your little one are lucky, the signs may not be noticeable at all.
Symptoms of teething can stay for just a few days or persist for several months, depending on the frequency at which the teeth emerge. Symptoms typically begin approximately 3 to 5 days before the tooth appears, and disappear when the tooth breaks through the gum.
Collectively, these are the most common symptoms of teething:
- Puffy gums
When a new tooth is about to emerge, you may notice a red, swollen area on your baby’s gums. In some cases, the gum may bulge with the tooth visible slightly beneath the skin.
- An urge to gnaw
It is common for teething babies to develop the urge to chomp on things in a bid to counter the pressure of an incoming tooth. The instinct to chew may also be a reaction to the odd feeling that something is going on in there.
Some babies bite on a toy or their fingers to relieve the pressure in their gums.
- Fussiness, mostly at night
Tooth eruption usually comes in stages. However, most activity happens at night, during which time you may notice your baby becomes irritable.
- Excessive drooling
Drooling is normal during infancy, so it may not always be a sign of teething. However, excessive spittle can signify a new tooth, and the best way to determine for sure is to check for other symptoms.
- A change in eating habits
Babies have different reactions to emerging teeth when it comes to their eating habits. Some may refuse to eat or drink because their mouth is too sore. Some babies may prefer to be nursed or bottle-fed more often to avoid irritating their inflamed gums. Others may increase their solid food intake because the counter-pressure feels good. In any case, these are reliable signs of teething that you should investigate.
How to soothe a teething baby
Next, we will look at how to soothe a teething baby.
Cold compresses can soothe sore gums by numbing pain and reducing swelling.
Drop a wet washcloth into a clean plastic bag and place in the refrigerator to chill. Once it is cool enough, your baby will enjoy chomping on it as the cold will numb the pain as cloth’s fabric soothes the ridges.
A refrigerated teether or pacifier can also come in handy for this purpose. These come in different varieties, including some with plastic handles to protect your child’s hand from the cold. Whatever type you go for, always supervise your child closely when they’re using a teether to ensure that he/she does not choke on it.
Babies who have started eating solids can gnaw on chilled fruit contained in a mesh bag designed for that particular purpose. You can also give the infant a large carrot. Hold one end as they chew on the other, being sure to monitor them the entire time.
Applying counter-pressure on your little one’s gums as they develop teeth can serve as a distraction from the resultant pain. If they reject cold items, let them chew on a room temperature teether. Alternatively, gently rub the baby’s gums for two minutes with a clean finger. They may protest initially, but it will provide relief.
Another option is to give the child a hard, unsweetened teething cracker to chew on and relieve the pain.
- Topical Medication
Most drugstores sell over the counter numbing creams and gels that you can rub on your baby’s gums to ease teething pain. However, it is important to consult your doctor before administering any topical medication containing benzocaine. If the baby swallows some of the drug it could inadvertently numb his/her throat and increase the chances of choking.
Benzocaine has also been shown to cause methemoglobinemia in certain instances (albeit rarely). Methemoglobinemia is a serious condition that is characterized by extremely low levels of oxygen in the blood.
If everything else fails, you may have to consider a suitable OTC painkiller such as acetaminophen.
Note: Always check with your doctor before introducing new medicines to your child. Your general practitioner can recommend the proper dosage based on your baby’s age.
Aspirin is generally frowned upon for anyone younger than nineteen years old. Giving it to an infant or even rubbing it on their gums can lead to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but hazardous condition. Keep in mind that fever, diarrhea, and vomiting are not normal signs of teething. Call your doctor immediately if your baby seems sick or suffers from a persistent fever.
At What Age do Babies Start Teething, and What are the Symptoms Summary
I hope this article answered your questions regarding the age at which babies start teething, the symptoms of teething in babies, and how to soothe a teething baby. Follow the tips and you will be able to ease your child’s discomfort and reduce stress for the entire family.