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Teething is when a baby's teeth start to push through the gums. Teeth usually first appear 4 to 10 months after the baby is born and for most children, teething is painless.

The signs of teething may vary from child to child and may include:

  • increased saliva
  • drooling
  • red or inflamed gums
  • fussiness during meals
  • waking more at night, and
  • the tendency to chew on rubber toys or fingers or the edges of objects like tables.

Generally, signs of illness such as fever, rash, or diarrhea are not symptoms of teething. If these symptoms exist, contact your child's healthcare provider.

One of the best ways to reduce the discomfort of teething is to give your child something to chew on. The act of chewing helps the emerging tooth break through the gum and the pressure of chewing reduces the discomfort.

To help soothe your baby, you can:

  • Gently massage the swollen gums with a clean finger.
  • Give your child something cold to gnaw on like a Popsicle, or chilled teething ring (not a frozen one).

Do not use whiskey or rub aspirin on the gums to reduce teething pain. Teething biscuits are okay, but avoid other hard foods that the baby might choke on. Avoid salty or acid foods that may irritate the gums. Over-the-counter gum gels made for babies are not recommended. Because they work for such a short time, it is easy to give your baby an overdose. Some babies may be allergic to them and develop shortness of breath or a rash.

If none of these strategies work, ask your healthcare provider about using infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check with your healthcare provider before you give medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen because of the risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.

Most children will have all 20 of their primary teeth by age 3. These teeth are replaced by permanent teeth starting around age 5 or 6. Never allow your baby to fall asleep with a bottle. This could lead to tooth decay later. Clean the new teeth with a soft child's toothbrush and water, or wipe them with gauze. Schedule your child's first visit to the dentist within 6 months of the appearance of her first tooth or by 1 year of age at the latest.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File oral3774.htm Release 13/2010

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