The First Tooth

The First Tooth

For some babies, teething is a breeze. For others, not so much.

By Brianna Marino

Babies are cute. They are adorable. It is awe inspiring how such a little human being can be so captivating and, yet, so dependent on the loving and attentive care of an adult. This becomes especially apparent between 4 and 7 months, when most babies get their first tooth.

For some babies, teething is a breeze. One day there are empty gums; the next, there’s a tooth. For other babies, teething will incite drooling, crying, sleepless nights and mild fevers. Luckily, there are some new and old tricks to employ as well as new recommendations and warnings from your doctors.

Is It a Tooth?

Before you can console a fussy baby, it’s helpful to determine the reason for distress. Although teething is a common cause, hunger, earaches, gassy tummies, tiredness, boredom and other things can be at the root of your baby’s tears.

“Parents think that their children are teething because they drool a lot around 4 months, but that’s just something they do,” says Jen Turner, a registered nurse at New London Pediatrics in New London, N.H. Always check with your pediatrician if you need help identifying the source of your infant’s or toddler’s tears.

If your little one is acting unhappy, first offer something to eat (bottle or food depending on your child’s age). Also, allow for a nap (if they’ll take one). Often hunger and tiredness are the biggest culprits in an irritable child. Food and sleep will also make them better equipped to deal with any teething discomfort.

But how do you know if they are teething? Some signs that your child is teething may include:

  • Crankiness
  • Drooling
  • Wanting to chew hard things
  • A minor fever (call your pediatrician if a fever is over 101 degrees)
  • Puffy or red gums, especially in the front of the mouth where teeth come in first

Tried and True

If your little one is teething, there are some tried and true ways you can help ease their discomfort. Play can be a wonderful distraction from teething pain. A new toy (or one they haven’t seen for a while) can take a child’s mind off what they feel in their mouths.

Providing safe objects to chew on can ease discomfort by giving a little gum pressure. Such objects might include your finger, a wet washcloth or special teething toys. Some toys, such as a teething ring, can be frozen and given to baby to chew on. The cold can numb the pain, but make sure whatever you give them isn’t too hard so they don’t hurt their gums in the process. “A baby may not always want to hold something cold, so a washcloth is good because you only have to freeze part of it,” says Turner.

Cold foods, such as chilled yogurt or fruit, can be helpful if your child is of the appropriate age. You can combine the cold food with a warm handle to hold by using a mesh teething feeder (Munchkin Fresh Food Feeder is a common brand). Place frozen blueberries or strawberries in the mesh area and allow baby to gum the chilled treat.

Finally, an over-the-counter medication (such as Tylenol) may help ease the pain for your baby. Be sure to check with your doctor as dosing instructions have recently changed for children under 2. In 2014, the American Dental Association recommended against the use of teething gels or liquids as a pain relief option due to the potentially dangerous side effects of benzocaine. According to Turner, “pediatricians also don’t like it.”

Stock Up

How long can you expect your child to be teething? Although many children get their first teeth between 4 and 7 months, some may not appear until after their first birthday. Most toddlers will have all 20 teeth by age 3. “One- to two-year molars are kind of tough and incisors are tough,” says Turner, “but, it all depends on the kid.”

According to the American Dental Association, when those first chompers do appear, begin brushing twice a day (unless directed otherwise by your dentist) using a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice. Make your baby’s first dental appointment by their first birthday.

Although watching our little ones in discomfort isn’t easy, teething is a natural part of babyhood and will pass. Until that time, stock up on drool bibs (some bandana bib styles are quite fashionable), teething toys — and make sure everyone gets as much rest as possible!

Brianna Marino lives with her husband, three children, cat and various livestock on a small homestead. For more DIY, recipes and homesteading adventures with kids, follow her blog at

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