Teething Basics

Many parents believe their baby is teething between 4 and 6 months of life, because they do a lot of drooling and chewing on their fingers. In reality, putting hands in the mouth is an important developmental milestone, and drooling frequently accompanies it. In reality, neither one actually indicates the onset of teething. You will know your baby is teething when you run your finger across the upper or lower gums and feel sharp teeth poking through. This usually happens between 6 and 12 months of life.

Teething Symptoms

  • Pain - Usually, teething doesn’t cause too much discomfort. That being said, some babies may show signs of discomfort in the area where the tooth is coming in, and the gums around the tooth may be swollen and tender. If you do believe your baby is in pain from teething, please refer to the pain management section below.
  • Fever - A study from 2016 published in Pediatrics definitively showed that teething does not cause a true fever (temperature above 100.4ºF). Teething can, however, slightly raise a child's temperature.
  • Other illness symptoms - Teething does not cause other symptoms of illness such as cough, runny nose, congestion, vomiting, diarrhea, or rashes.

Teething Pain Management

  • The foundation of teething pain management is gum massage.
    • This is why babies chew on their fingers and hands when teething.
    • You can massage your baby’s gums with your fingers.
    • Cold teething rings can help, but many babies don’t seem to be interested in these.
    • Another good option is a cold, wet washcloth from the refrigerator.
  • Pain control medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, are safe and effective ways to manage teething pain if the gum massage methods don't seem to be working. Be sure to follow the weight-based dosing recommendations for these medications. Ibuprofen is not safe for babies younger than 6 months of life. 

Teething Remedies to Avoid

  • Give your baby cold items from the refrigerator, never the freezer. Frozen items can cause injury to the sensitive gums.
  • Teething necklaces (amber, for example) can pose a strangulation risk or choking hazard if they break while your baby is wearing them.
  • Gels containing benzocaine and homeopathic remedies with the Belladonna plant can cause life-threatening poisoning in babies and should be avoided.