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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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Article Home Dentistry Teething


Teething can be an ordeal for parents and babies alike. Learn how to soothe sore gums and care for your baby's new teeth.

Classic signs and symptoms of teething often include:

  • Drooling, which may begin about two months before the first tooth appears
  • Irritability
  • Swollen gums
  • Chewing on solid objects
  • Crankiness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite

If your teething baby seems uncomfortable, consider these simple tips.

  • Rub your baby's gums. Use a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to massage your baby's gums. The pressure can ease your baby's discomfort.
  • Offer a teething ring. Try one made of firm rubber. The liquid-filled variety may break under the pressure of your baby's chewing. If a bottle seems to do the trick, fill it with water. Prolonged contact with sugar from formula, milk or juice may cause tooth decay.
  • Keep it cool. A cold washcloth or chilled teething ring can be soothing. Don't give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold may hurt, doing your baby more harm than good. If your baby's eating solid foods, offer cold items such as applesauce or yogurt.
  • Dry the drool. Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby's chin. You may want to lay a clean cloth under your baby's head while he or she sleeps to keep the sheet dry.
  • Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is having trouble sleeping or is especially cranky, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help. Don't give your baby products that contain aspirin. Most doctors don't recommend teething medications that can be rubbed directly on a baby's gums. The medication may be washed away by your baby's drool before it has the chance to do any good — and too much of the medication may numb your baby's throat, which may interfere with his or her normal gag reflex.

What's the best way to soothe sore gums?

Do I need to call the doctor?

Teething can usually be handled at home. Call the doctor if your baby develops a fever, seems particularly uncomfortable, or has other signs or symptoms of illness. Remember, teething doesn't cause fever, colds or diarrhea.

How do I care for my baby's new teeth?

Ideally, you've been running a clean, damp washcloth over your baby's gums every day. If not, now's a great time to start. The washcloth can keep bacteria from building up in your baby's mouth.

When your baby's teeth begin to appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush or the fingertip variety specifically meant for infants. There's no need to use toothpaste. Until your child learns to spit — about age 2 or 3 — water is all you need.

It's also time to think about regular dental checkups. The American Dental Association recommends scheduling a child's first dental appointment by age 1. Because a baby's teeth and gums are examined at well-baby checkups, many doctors recommend scheduling the first dental appointment at about age 3 — or earlier if problems occur. Regular childhood dental care can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.