How can I help manage my toddler’s teething pain?

A lot of parents want to know how long the whole teething process is going to take, and once a tooth starts to break through, how long is that going to take? Or, in other words, how long is your baby not going to sleep through the night or be extra fussy? It’s really different for all children. There isn’t one answer to those questions. Generally speaking, it takes a child about 3 years to get all 20 of their teeth and it usually starts between 4 and 7 months of age. A baby typically gets their bottom middle front teeth first, and then the top middle front teeth usually come 1 to 2 months later, then the next bottom 2 teeth come in beside the front 2 teeth, and then it’s the molars. The molars typically start to come in around the 1st birthday, maybe a little bit after.

It’s normal for children to be a little bit irritable, maybe run a very low-grade fever, to want to suck on everything, and maybe drool excessively when they’re teething. So if you’re seeing these symptoms, it could be due to teething, but if their symptoms persist or get worse, or if the fever gets higher than just a low-grade fever (ike if it’s 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), then you should actually talk with a pediatrician. A lot of the times, parents write off symptoms as teething when it’s actually an underlying issue that needs to be addressed, and treatment for this issue is delayed, because the parents thought it was teething. So it’s important to talk to the pediatrician if the symptoms persist or get worse.

If it is just teething, then there are a lot of things that you can do. First of all, you can talk with your pediatrician about over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers that will help your baby feel a little bit better. You can also get a chilled washcloth and let your baby gnaw on that, or even a chilled sock is okay too. Once your child is old enough, especially for those molars, after their 1st birthday, when they’re well-established on solid foods, you can get a very chilled banana or chilled berries, and cut the banana up into the appropriate size, and let them gnaw on that, or put some cool, refreshing water in a sippy cup. That can all be very soothing to their swollen gums. You can also massage their gums, so wash your hands really well, cut your fingernails, and look for the swollen area and just massage it. That can relieve the pain a lot for a baby who’s teething. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against teething rings that are filled with fluid or gel, also amber necklaces, teething tablets, or teething gel, because all of these things have been associated with incidents that have caused harm to children.

Good oral hygiene actually starts before a baby gets their first tooth. Parents should actually get some gauze, or a washcloth, and even a soft-bristled toothbrush, and just gently brush the baby’s gums each day. Then once that first tooth erupts, then you can start using just a very scant amount of fluoridated toothpaste – maybe even the size of a grain of rice or less. Then as the child starts to get older and can begin spitting it out, usually around the age of 3 or so, you can begin using about a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. The child, at that point, once they’ve gotten all of their teeth, should be brushing in the morning and at night at least, and maybe more frequently throughout the day too. Another thing to keep in mind is that the American Dental Association recommends that children see a dentist for the first time around their 1st birthday. This is an opportunity for the dentist to educate parents on how to care for the child’s teeth and to also check things out, make sure everything’s looking okay, and to answer any questions the parents might have. If you have more questions in the future for me, feel free to ask them on our Facebook page at facebook.com/IntermountainMoms and recommend us to your friends and family too.