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Publication #FCS2300

Teething: Symptoms and Remedies1

Nila Lenna and Eboni J. Baugh2

A child's first tooth is a big developmental milestone. Parents are excited about their child's first tooth, but may worry about what to expect and amount of pain the child may experience. The process of teething can be painful for both the child and the parent.

Figure 1. 

Gabriel's First Tooth


Credit:

Eric A. Peacock (http://www.flickr.com/photos/evilpeacock/3521497844/sizes/l/%23cc_license)


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Every child is born with all 20 of their baby teeth hidden beneath the surface of their gums. For most children, the first tooth emerges at 5–7 months, although it can occur earlier or later depending on factors such as race and nutrition:

  • African American children's teeth may emerge as early as four months, in comparison to their Caucasian peers at 6 months.

  • Malnutrition usually delays the emergence of teeth while overweight and obese children experience teething earlier.

  • Breastfeeding seems to encourage proper development of teeth and may decrease chances for subsequent tooth decay.

In very rare situations, some children are born with a visible tooth. The child's bottom two teeth, or central incisors, usually break through the gums first, followed by the top two teeth. Most children will have all of their primary teeth by their third birthday and begin to get their adult teeth around age six. Figure 2 can be used as a guide to tooth arrival.

Figure 2. 

Average tooth development


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Symptoms of Teething

Although no cluster of symptoms can reliably predict the emergence of a tooth, there are some common symptoms that are experienced by most babies:

  • Drooling

  • Chewing

  • Swollen gums

  • Irritability

  • Waking at night

  • Slight rise in temperature (if greater than 100.4ºF, call a physician)

  • Diarrhea (if persistent, call a physician)

Remedies for Teething Discomfort

  • Teething rings

  • Rubbing the gums

  • Distraction

  • Cool, damp washcloth

  • Cold food

  • Wooden teething toys

  • Frozen teething cubes

  • Frozen pacifier

  • Nursing mother

  • Teething tablets

  • Teething gel

It is important to comfort your child while addressing their physical pain. Be aware of possible allergens when using any medication or homeopathic medicine, so always consult with your physician before using teething tablets or gels. Also, never leave a child unsupervised with any food, teething ring or cubes or similar, as these can be choking hazards. Keep in mind the size and weight of the object in relation to the child. Experiment with different textures and temperatures to see what is most soothing for your teething child.

Conclusion

Overall, teething can cause varying levels of discomfort for a child, but it is a process he or she probably won't remember. It is important to keep a baby's gums and first teeth healthy for they set the foundation for healthy adult teeth. Parents should wipe their child's gums and tongue with damp gauze/soft cloth after feedings; and with emergence of that first tooth, begin brushing teeth twice a day until the child has learned to do so on his or her own.

For more online resources, see Table 1.

References

Berk, L. E. (2007). Infants, children, and adolescents (6th Ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Carruth, B. R., Ziegler, P.J., Gordon, A. & Henricks, K. (2004). Developmental milestones and self-feeding behaviors in infants and toddlers. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 104, pp.S51-S56.

Gorfinkle, Kenneth (1998). Soothing your child's pain from teething and tummy aches to acute illnesses and injuries. Lincolnwood, Ill: Contemporary Books.

Macknin, M.L., Piedmonte, M., Jacobs, J., & Skibinski, C. (2000). Symptoms associated with infant teething: A prospective study. Pediatrics, 105. [Online] Retrieved February 10, 2009 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/105/4/747.

Smitherman, L.C., Janisse, J. & Mathur, A. (2005). The use of folk remedies among children in an urban Black community: Remedies for fever, colic, and teething. Pediatrics, 115, pp. 297-304. [Online] Retrieved June 22, 2009 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/115/3/e297.

Tables

Table 1. 

Online resources.

Who

What

Where

American Academy of Pediatrics

Protecting All Children's Teeth (PACT): A Pediatric Oral Health Training Program

http://www2.aap.org/commpeds/dochs/oralhealth/pact/ch2_sect5.cfm [24 September 2012]

American Dental Association

Teething

http://www.ada.org/2747.aspx?currentTab=1

Nemours Foundation

Teething Tots

http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/common/teething.html

Footnotes

1.

This document is FCS2300, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. First published September 2009. Reviewed June 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Eboni J. Baugh, assistant professor, and Nila Lenna, student; Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension; Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.