Teething 101: 4 Pediatrician-Approved Ways to Soothe a Teething Baby

Plus 5 teething symptoms to watch for
Baby chewing on teething toy

You finally got your baby’s sleep routine on lock. So when you tiptoe out of your sleeping infant’s nursery, you foolishly think you’re home free.

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Think again! Your baby’s cutting a tooth, and there’s seemingly nothing you can do about it.

“You’re spared the first one to three months, but after that, the teeth just keep on coming,” says pediatrician Ei Ye Mon, MD.

If you find yourself in the teething zone — which occurs anywhere between 4 months old and around 2 years old — you don’t have to be stuck there. Dr. Ye Mon gives her best teething remedies so you and your baby can live your best life, one tooth at a time.

Signs your baby is teething

All babies are different. So are their teething symptoms. Some will give no signs a new tooth is about to poke through. Others may show one or more of these symptoms:

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  1. Irritability. Fussy, cranky – whatever you call it, they are simply not themselves. Giggles have been replaced by whines and screams. They’re clingier than usual.
  2. Drooling. Is that a Great Dane or your baby? Pack extra bibs!
  3. Red and swollen gums. Open baby’s mouth and instead of pretty and pink, those gums are big and red.
  4. Decreased appetite. With inflamed gums, eating can be uncomfortable, especially for toddlers who eat solid foods. “They may not eat normally when a tooth is getting ready to erupt,” Dr. Ye Mon says.
  5. Mouthiness. Not to be confused with talking back (that comes later), this kind of mouthiness refers to when kids gnaw, chew and even bite the things around them — including mom and dad.

“It usually takes about three or four days, but once the tooth breaks through the gums, the symptoms should start decreasing,” Dr. Ye Mon explains.

But don’t be surprised when it happens again. You might experience teething deja vu up to 20 times, since that’s the number of baby teeth lying in wait.

Signs it’s more than teething

“It’s normal for them to be upset about the pain around their gums, but they shouldn’t be inconsolable,” explains Dr. Ye Mon.

Teething symptoms also shouldn’t last for weeks at a time. If they do, take your baby to the pediatrician to see if something else is to blame.

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Other symptoms that a doctor should check out include:

  • Fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Runny nose.
  • Inconsolable crying.

Pediatrician-approved teething remedies

If all signs point to a teething baby, Dr. Ye Mon recommends these simple teething remedies:

  • Wet cloth. Freeze a clean, wet cloth or rag, then give it to your baby to chew on. “It helps decrease inflammation along the gums,” she says. “Parents can also massage the gums with the rag.”
  • Cold food. Serve cold foods such as applesauce, yogurt, and refrigerated or frozen fruit (for babies who eat solid foods).
  • Teething biscuits. You can offer teething biscuits starting at 8 to 12 months of age. But pay attention to gum hygiene. “To protect against cavities, wipe the gum area and teeth with a clean cloth. As they get more teeth, introduce a toothbrush,” Dr. Ye Mon advises. “Get that routine set in place. You don’t even need toothpaste. Just brushing the plaque off can help prevent cavities later on.”
  • Teething rings and toys. They’re easy for tiny fists to grasp and provide the pressure needed to soothe sore gums. “Avoid freezing the ones with gel because they may break more easily when your child gnaws on them,” she says. “Instead, use the refrigerator to keep them cold.”

Buyer beware: Teething edition

Use caution with these common teething remedies, or avoid them altogether:

  • Topical medications containing lidocaine or benzocaine. “No studies have proven the long-term benefit of these products,” Dr. Ye Mon cautions. “Plus, the effects last for such a short period. Meanwhile, your baby is swallowing it and getting high levels of the medication into the bloodstream.”
  • Herbal products. “There haven’t been enough studies about the effectiveness of herbal remedies for teething,” she says. “Herbs are medications. They are still metabolized by your liver and kidneys. We don’t know the long-term side effects, so there is a risk.”
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If you’re going to give your fussy child one of these medications, Dr. Ye Mon recommends starting with one dose. “If it gets to the point where one dose isn’t enough, see your pediatrician before doing serial dosing.” Also, check the Food and Drug Administration’s website for information about the safety of children’s medications.

For your teething baby, an ounce of caution is worth a pound of cure.

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