When your baby’s first tooth shows up, you might be taken by surprise (“Ow! Was that just a bite?”), or you might just finally understand what all those strange symptoms were about. Look out for these common signs your baby is teething.
When Does Teething Begin for Infants?
Teething usually starts around four to eight months with the lower front teeth and continues until 30-36 months of age when the last set of molars appear. During the teething period there are symptoms that include irritability, disrupted sleep, swelling or inflammation of the gums, drooling, loss of appetite, rash around the mouth, mild temperature, diarrhea, increased biting and gum-rubbing and even ear-rubbing. These symptoms were reported by 70-80 percent of parents according to an article from the British Dental Journal. So, why don’t all infants experience teething symptoms? Keep reading to find out.
Why Teething Symptoms May Be Confused with Cold Symptoms
Research has pointed out that teething begins around six months of age. This is the same time when an infant’s immunities they received from their mother, via the placenta, are diminishing. This means that the infant’s own immune system is becoming established. During this time, infants become vulnerable to minor infections. Because these two changes are taking place, the symptoms of teething can be confused with a minor illness or cold and visa versa. This explains why only 70-80 percent of parents reported teething symptoms of their infant; it’s very likely that parents of the remaining 20-30 percent associated the symptoms to a minor illness or cold.
Your baby’s mouth will ache as that little tooth presses on the gums and pokes up to the surface, and, not surprisingly, it’ll probably make him feel out of sorts. Some babies may be irritable for just a few hours, but others can stay fussy for days or even weeks.
How to help your infant’s irritability: Cuddle, cuddle, cuddle! Every baby can use some good cuddle time when they are having a hard time with teething. The extra time spent with your baby can help alleviate their pain, by providing feelings of being comforted and reassured.
It’s hard to believe so much fluid can come from the mouths of tiny babes, but teething stimulates drooling, and the waterworks are on for many babies starting from about 10 weeks to 3 or 4 months of age or older. If you find that your baby’s shirts are constantly soggy, fasten on a bib to keep him more comfortable (and cleaner), and gently wipe his chin throughout the day to stave off chapping.
How to help your infant’s drooling: Excessive drooling can cause a rash around the mouth, cheeks, chin and neck area due to the extra bacteria on the skin from the saliva. Try to keep the area as clean and as dry as possible by periodically wiping the area. Applying a simple barrier cream can help with the dry, chapped and sore skin.
All that drool can make babies gag and cough (you’d choke too with a mouthful of spit). But it’s not cause for concern if your baby has no other signs of cold, flu or allergies.
How to help your infant’s coughing: If your infant’s cough continues or is accompanied by a high fever and cold or flu symptoms, contact your infant’s pediatrician. The high fever with cold and flu symptoms is not related to teething, but is actually a sign that your infant is sick.
Biting and Gnawing
Pressure from teeth poking through under the gums causes baby a lot of discomfort — which can be relieved by counterpressure (aka chewing and biting). Teething babies will gum whatever they can find, from teething rings and rattles to your soon-to-be sore nipples (if you’re breastfeeding) and fingers.
How to help your infant’s biting and gnawing: Anything cold works great! My best friend mixes water with the pouches of baby food and freezes them to make fruit and veggie popsicles. There are teething rings, chew beads and any commercially bought teething toys can help, especially when chilled or frozen.
Low Grade Fever
A low grade fever is defined and caused by the following:
- A temperature ranging from 98-100 degrees.
- It can be caused by an infant putting their unclean hands in their mouth.
If the fever reaches above 101 degrees or continues, contact your infant’s pediatrician because it may not be the teething but a more serious illness.
How to help your infant’s low grade fever: Use an age-appropriate pain medication and please consult your infant’s pediatrician and the medication label for correct dosage.
Cheek rubbing and ear pulling
This is caused by pain in the gums, which can travel to the cheek and ear, especially when the molars are erupting. Infants will rub those areas. Keep in mind that ear pulling or rubbing can also be a sign of an ear infection, please contact your infant’s pediatrician if this symptom continues or is accompanied with a high fever.
How to help your infant’s cheek rubbing and ear pulling: Try rubbing and massaging the gums with a clean finger for one to two minutes to help with the discomfort.
Teething and Diarrhea
Many believe that the increased saliva produced during teething can cause stool to become slightly loose.Keep in mind, diarrhea can be a sign of a more serious infection so contact your infant’s pediatrician if the stool becomes watery, because your infant could be at risk for dehydration. Contacting your infant’s pediatrician is especially important if the diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting or a high fever.
The type and severity of these symptoms vary widely from baby to baby — for one, teething means lots of pain and big-time tears, while another might breeze right through to a mouth full of teeth without a complaint. But you can probably expect to see at least some, and maybe many, of these symptoms. Hang in there, Mom!