Teething refers to a baby’s first set of teeth, as they emerge from his or her gums. It can occur anywhere between about three and 12 months of age, but the average age for most babies to begin teething is at around six months old. Some typical symptoms of teething can include drooling, fever, and general irritability. These are not usually serious and can often be relieved with simple remedies. When symptoms do not go away after the teeth have appeared, or if a caretaker notices worrisome symptoms in general, he or she may want to consult a pediatrician for advice.
The typical teething schedule can start before the child is a year old, and is normally finished by age three. Two signs that a baby is about to start teething can include gum swelling and discomfort, and he or she might start biting things to relieve the discomfort. The pain can also lead to fussiness, and the baby might display a loss of appetite because eating or drinking might cause mouth pain. Other common telltale signs of teething in babies are excessive drooling, trouble sleeping, and rubbing their cheeks or ears.
To relieve the symptoms of teething, many doctors recommend placing light pressure on the gums and using a cool or cold object to reduce swelling. Gently rubbing the baby’s gums with one’s finger can sometimes be enough to provide relief. In addition, babies often like to chew on teething rings, which are usually made of soft plastic and filled with water. A chilled teething ring, or even a soft cloth soaked in cold water, can help ease a baby’s teething pain. Heavy drooling might cause a rash on the baby’s chin or around his or her mouth. This can usually be relieved with a lanolin ointment or petroleum jelly.
For treating symptoms of teething, such as fever and pain, doctors usually suggest a mild pain reliever, like infants' acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Generally, other medications are not recommended, unless one’s pediatrician has explicitly approved them. There are other remedies that generally should not be used to treat symptoms of teething. These include teething gels that can numb the gums and sometimes the rest of the mouth. Opinions about these remedies vary among medical professionals, so one should consult a trusted doctor for personal advice.
There are few known side effects of teething. What some people may take as symptoms of teething, however, might in fact be indicators of another medical issue. For example, many people associate a cough or runny nose with teething, when the child might actually have a cold or infection. There is even some disagreement in the medical field about whether a fever is necessarily a symptom of teething. In most cases, caretakers should consult their doctor if they feel that any of the symptoms are prolonged or worsening, especially if the baby has a fever of 101°F (about 38°C) or higher.