Teething: Your Ultimate Guide

Teething Baby

Before kindergarten gold stars and high school graduation gowns, the youngest members of our families achieve something significant that they carry with them for the duration of life – getting their teeth. This process, referred to as teething, is gradual and often uncomfortable for infants. It can also be an incredibly trying time for even the savviest of parents. Although there is no ‘magic pill solution’ to make the process of teething a cake walk, there are definitely tried and tested strategies, tools and proactive activities that can make it as comfortable as possible. Before getting into that, let’s start by getting to know the enemy.


The Process of Teething


In dental circles, teething has a more medical and accurate name; eruption. Given that babies are born without teeth, each individual tooth they eventually end up with must push through or erupt through the gum. The process itself is triggered by hormonal changes in the body that cause certain cells in the gums to die, thereby creating the gap for a tooth to push through. As you can imagine, when a tooth creates a path that doesn’t currently exist it can lead to pain, swelling, and sensitivity. We provide tried and tested ninja tactics for dealing with this later in this post.


Most babies begin teething between 6 and 12 months of age. Some children can start the process as early as 2-3 months old. Family history has been shown to be a fair indicator of both timing and sequence of tooth development, so if both you and your spouse were late to the tooth party, expect the same for your children. You may want to consider a visit to a pediatric dentist if your child has no teeth at 18 months.


The emergence of teeth usually starts in the middle of the mouth and moves towards the back with second molars typically appearing between the ages of two and three. As you can imagine, larger teeth often cause more pain and discomfort than their smaller counterparts. A complete guide on the sequence and timing for all your children’s 20 baby teeth can be found here. Because you are awesome, we also included an overview below.


When you should expect your baby's various teeth

When you should expect your baby’s various teeth


What Signs, Symptoms, and Behaviors Should I Look for?


Determining whether your child is teething can be more difficult than you think. The primary reason for this is because each child’s teething experience is unique. Some may provide an obvious checklist of behaviours while others have no noticeable signs at all. Symptoms tend to begin a few days before and up until a tooth erupts. They include:


  • Increased drooling (this can lead to a slight rash near the mouth and chin)

  • Irritability and mood changes

  • Avoiding eating and drinking (due to the pain in their mouth)

  • An increased tendency to place things in their mouth to chew, bite and suck (hands in particular)

  • Restlessness and difficulty sleeping

  • Holding and rubbing their ear(s)

  • More frequent rubbing of the face (can cause red and flushed cheeks)

  • Elevated body temperature, NOT a fever (over 100F/38C)


Any of these symptoms on their own or in concert with others should indicate teething. The ideal way to tell is by looking into the mouth and feeling around with a well cleaned finger for the following:


  • Swollen, red and bulging gums

  • A tooth that is visible or can be felt just below the gum line

  • A sense of comfort when you are gently rubbing their gums


The final three represent the most obvious signs that your child is getting a tooth in the coming days.


Best Practices – How Can I Make Teething Easier


Teething can be a trying time for babies and parents alike. Any form of temporary relief should be welcomed, particularly if it helps to gently stimulate the gums and expedite the eruption process. This is done most effectively by administering something for the baby to chew on, especially a rubber teething ring/toy or a clean and slightly damp refrigerated washcloth (do not freeze). Chewing these items helps to break down some gum tissue, thereby helping the teething process. These items can be found at your local drug or children’s toy store. If you don’t have anything else handy, a well cleaned finger rubbed gently over and around the eruption site can cause temporary relief.Opting for colder food choices can also help your baby eat during the teething process. Items such as chilled yogurt, applesauce and fruit purees are healthy and highly recommended.


It is important to begin brushing your child’s gums daily as early as possible and definitely as soon as the first tooth erupts. A clean and damp washcloth will suffice until your child begins teething. After that, opt for an infant age toothbrush. Doing so not only cleans the gums, but the resulting stimulation aids in breaking down gum tissue that makes it easier for future incoming teeth. It is highly recommended that your child visit the dentist shortly after their first birthday.


Should I Opt for Medication?


As with most other health situation surrounding your baby, medication should be seen as an absolute last resort. If you child is in a great deal of discomfort,  Acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Children’s Advil / Motrin) can offer relief. Both treat the pain and swelling that babies experience during teething. A medical professional, preferably your pediatrician, pediatric dentist or family doctor should green light the administration of such drugs. Ibuprofen is not recommended for children under 6 months of age and instructions should always be followed as per the packaging. Products containing Aspirin should be avoided due to the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.


Other common medical treatments for teething include topical numbing agents such as Orajel, however parents should exercise caution before using these. Medicated gels work by dulling the nerves found in the gums thereby reducing the sensation of pain for 10-20 minute. Instructions should be followed precisely as overuse can lead to unnecessary issues.




Teething is what it is; a necessary and amazing part of your child’s early development. As difficult as it may seem for you or your little bundle of joy in a moment, remember that in the grand scheme of things pain and discomfort for all parties involved will only last a few days at a time. There is a big bright light at the end of the tunnel!   Our goal with this post was to provide you with as much useful information as one needs to understand teething and how to help both your child and yourself through it. We sincerely hope you learned from the content above and will apply this information. Your teething toddler will thank you for it.


Useful Sources


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teething http://www.emedicinehealth.com/teething/article_em.htm http://www.babycenter.com/0_teething-your-babys-first-teeth_11243.bc http://www.babycenter.ca/a567379/baby-teething-how-to-ease-the-distress

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