Mom with baby teething on a toy.

How to Recognize Signs That Your Baby is Teething

During the first year of your baby’s life, you’ll experience a lot of exciting milestones and plenty of bonding moments. While many of the aspects of growing up are fun and heartwarming, one thing that causes parents distress is the time when babies start teething. Teething refers to the time when your baby’s teeth begin to push through the gums and grow into place. Unfortunately, this process is far from comfortable and can cause a variety of side effects in developing babies. To help you better cope with this transformative time, here’s more information on how to recognize signs that your baby is teething.


Signs and Symptoms of Teething in Babies

Some of the indications that your baby is teething are fairly obvious, while some can be confused for other issues. Try to keep an eye on your baby’s behavior and consider the general timeline for teething. This can help you determine the best way to soothe your teething baby and address ongoing discomfort. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of teething include the following:

Crying and Irritability

Regardless of if your baby has shown signs of colic in the past, teething will bring upon a whole new stage of crying and irritability. This is one of the most easily recognizable signs, as it’s a noticeable difference from how your child usually acts. You may notice that your baby gets agitated easily, cries more frequently throughout the day, or demonstrates tell-tale signs of irritability. This tends to happen before the first tooth breaks through the gums, but often gets better with subsequent teeth. Crying and irritability is also common when molars develop around age two.

Excessive Drooling

While some degree of drool is common amongst babies, teething can lead to noticeably excessive drooling. These levels of drool tend to soak through your baby’s shirt quickly and can even dampen the clothing of caregivers. This can be countered with the use of a bib, but it’s still important to wipe away drool when you can to help reduce the risk of a rash.

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Swollen Gums

If your baby is showing early signs of teething, check their gums for physical symptoms. Some of the most common indications that your baby is about to get his or her first tooth is gums that appear swollen, red, or even bruised. If you gently take your finger and rub it across the top of the gums, you may even feel the small tooth underneath the surface.

Nighttime Fussiness

While nighttime sleeping schedules are often unpredictable with newborns, teething can cause further problems. Teeth tend to make their way through your baby’s gums during the night, which can lead to an increase in irritability or fussiness. If you notice that your baby is being particularly fussy or acting out of character when you put them down, it may be due to the imminent arrival of their first teeth.

Changes to Routines

With that being said, any significant change to your baby’s routine can be indicative of teething, especially during the appropriate timeline. This could be a change in sleeping patterns or alterations in their eating. They may want more solid foods as the counterpressure can help alleviate teething pain or they may avoid eating altogether. Aversions to breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle can also be a sign of teething, as the pressure from sucking can be uncomfortable.

Biting or Gnawing

You may begin to notice that your baby tries to bite anything they can get their hands on. This is because the pressure from the erupting tooth is often alleviated with counterpressure from the top down. During the first few teeth, biting isn’t necessarily a problem but if your baby already has a few, this can cause a lot of discomfort during nursing.

Cheek Rubbing and Ear Pulling

Some baby teething symptoms that are often overlooked are cheek rubbing and ear pulling. This is because the gums actually share the nerve pathways with the ears and the cheeks, which can cause discomfort across all three areas. However, ear pulling is also a common sign of an ear infection in young babies, so it’s best to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure. This is especially true if ear pulling is associated with a fever or any flu-like symptoms.

While teething isn’t likely to cause a high fever or diarrhea, some parents may notice they appear at the same time as baby teeth. However, these symptoms are likely caused by a virus or infection as teething begins around the same time as your baby’s mom-acquired immunity begins to wane. If your baby has a low-grade temperature for three days, or if the fever is high and paired with other symptoms, visit your doctor as soon as possible.


Typical Teething Timelines for Babies

The order that your baby’s teeth come in can be vastly different for everyone. While there’s some indication that tooth eruption order may be based on family history, there’s not enough evidence to support this. With that being said, don’t be concerned if teeth begin to peek through randomly. Eventually, all of your baby’s teeth will come in and if there’s anything that raises concern, you can work with your family dentist to determine the best outcome.

In most instances, baby’s will get their lower front two teeth first, then the top two teeth. They tend to break through gums from the middle to the molars, but some randomness of this process isn’t a cause for concern. The typical timeline for teething in most babies is as follows:

  • Three to Six Months: during this stage, your baby will begin showing the initial signs of teething such as drooling or irritability.


  • Six to 12 Months: this is the average age range when the first tooth will erupt from the gums. However, each child is different so don’t be too concerned if your timeline varies.


  • 12 Months: molars can begin to appear around this age, which tend to be more painful than previous teeth due to their flat surfaces. You can work with your pediatrician to alleviate severe discomfort caused by these eruptions.


  • 12 to 24 Months: during this period, the molars continue to develop. This is when the second set will begin to appear.


Helpful Tactics to Alleviate Discomfort

As a new parent, it can be difficult to watch your baby experience the discomfort associated with teething. However, there are a few ways that you can help sooth your baby. Since every child is different, you may need to experiment with various teething rings and other options to find something that brings your baby relief. Some of the most common remedies include giving your baby something cold to put in their mouth such as a clean wet washcloth or a refrigerated teething toy, offering gum massages, or using a hard, unsweetened teething cracker. Never put something in your baby’s mouth that isn’t specifically designed to help sooth teething, as many products contain harmful chemicals that aren’t good for them. Non-teething specific products may also be made of breakable materials or have dangerous liquid inside. If your baby is experiencing discomfort that affects their eating or sleeping patterns immensely, talk to your doctor about options for baby-safe medication or alternative treatments. Do not use numbing agents such as benzocaine on children under the age of two or without your doctor’s orders. Amber teething necklaces are also not recommended as they pose a choking hazard.


Caring for Your Baby’s New Teeth

Both during and after your baby has gone through the process of teething, it’s important to practice good oral hygiene. Try to clean your baby’s gums with a clean, wet washcloth at least once a day. This can also be done with fresh gauze. This should continue when your baby’s teeth emerge. After their first birthday, work with your family dentist to begin using a soft-bristled, baby-specific toothbrush with fluoride free toothpaste to clean their teeth. Gentle flossing is also recommended.

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