Our babies are born with all their teeth just waiting to pop through their little pink gums – although pearly whites usually don’t peak through until about 6 months of age. You might notice the first signs of teething as small bumps on the bottom jaw in the center front. These bumps are the teeth trying to break through the tough gum tissue – which can take a few days to weeks. Your baby will continue to get new teeth until all 20 have come in, usually by age 3.
With 20 teeth breaking through those little pink gums, teething can cause some serious discomfort. If your baby is in the age range and showing any of these signs, teething may be to blame:
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Drooling more than usual
Your baby may have sore or tender gums when teeth begin to break through the gums. Some babies like to have their gums rubbed with a clean finger, a cool spoon, or a moist washcloth. A clean teether for your child to chew on may also help. Look for teethers made of solid rubber, and avoid liquid-filled teething rings or plastic objects that could break.
I made my own teether at home using a washcloth. You can too, just wet the washcloth, tie it into a knot and freeze it. The hard knot will give your baby a solid surface to chew and the cool temperature will reduce inflammation and pain.
New recommendations from the FDA urges us to stick with teethers for pain relief and avoid products that numb the gums for kids younger than 2. In a statement from the FDA, “We are also warning that benzocaine oral drug products should only be used in adults and children 2 years and older if they contain certain warnings on the drug label,” the FDA said in a May 2018 statement. “These products carry serious risks and provide little to no benefits for treating oral pain, including sore gums in infants due to teething.” Benzocaine is an over-the-counter anesthetic, which the FDA notes are usually under the product names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Benzocaine has been associated with a rare but serious—and sometimes fatal—condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is greatly reduced.
Many parents like to use amber teething jewelry for babies to mouth and chew. Check frequently for fraying or weakness in the string and throw away any items that are at risk from breaks. The small pieces of amber can be a choking hazard.
Teething is a time when babies (continue to) put everything in their mouth. Help them sooth by having appropriate items handy for them. The items will be dropped frequently, so dishwasher safe is a plus. Some babies eschew all items and prefer to chew on their fist, this is convenient because it won’t be left behind or forgotten but your baby can develop a rash on his hand from the saliva. Try to wash his hand frequently and offer other items if you see a rash develop.