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Welcoming baby’s first teeth

August 26, 2020 • read

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Welcoming baby’s first teeth

Your baby’s first teeth will likely arrive in a predictable order, but their reaction to teething is anything but predictable. For some babies it’s painless and they show very few signs that they’re teething, while others can hit every symptom on the list. Whatever your experience, it can be hard to distinguish between fact and fiction when it comes to teething. We’re helping you sift through the misinformation to welcome baby’s first teeth gracefully.

When do babies get teeth?

Charts for teeth order are helpful for showing which teeth should come in when. But parents shouldn’t be concerned if their child’s teeth come in out of order — your baby hasn’t read the medical text. Typically the bottom two come in first, followed by the top two and then they sort of fan out from there (check out this chart for a handy visual).

Babies are unpredictable. Until that first tooth comes through the gums, you can’t always tell if your child’s behaviour is due to teething. So how do you know when a baby is teething? Age is usually a good indicator. Teething age for most babies is between six to ten months (though some kids cut teeth early, and others late). Baby teeth that come in late aren’t usually a cause for concern, unless your child still hasn’t cut their first teeth by 18 months. If this happens you should speak to a pediatric dentist, as rarely, this might be a sign of a congenital condition, anemia or cysts in the gums. 

Symptoms of baby’s first teeth

You’ve likely heard that when babies do start teething, they get a fever. In reality, this tends to be more like a spike in temperature than a real fever. Fever is more likely to be a teething symptom in 1- to 2-year-olds as some get teething fevers when their molars come through. The most common teething symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Chewing / biting everything
  • Pulling on their ears
  • Interrupted sleep
  • Crying in their sleep
  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritability / increased crying
  • Increased clinginess
  • Loose stool / diarrhea

Alternative teething remedies

There are a number of homeopathic and “alternative” teething products on the market for babies, from teething syrup to amber necklaces. But parents should know that there is no evidence backing these products’ claims to stop teething pain. And worse, some are downright dangerous. The Canadian Pediatric Association cautions that amber necklaces are both a choking hazard and a strangulation risk, for example. And many homeopathic teething formulations contain sugar or alcohol, both of which are definite no-nos.

Numbing agents for rubbing on baby’s gums like Orajel and camphor are also out. In some children, products containing benzocaine cause dangerous side-effects like decreased oxygen levels in the blood and seizures. Orajel for babies was removed from Canadian shelves in 2019, so if you have any in the house from older children it should be disposed of immediately. Even if it worked for your older children, that doesn’t mean it’s safe for your new baby.

How to treat teething pain

If you think your baby is in pain, you can give them an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as long as they are at least three months old. Check the back of the bottle or the paper insert to see how often you can give a baby Tylenol or Advil for teething. And make sure to dose by weight instead of age, as a few pounds can make a big difference. Many think it’s harmless, but Tylenol is actually toxic for the liver in larger quantities. So while it can be tempting to give your baby Tylenol for teething every night, that’s not a good idea. If you’re considering that, please speak with your doctor first.

So if you can’t use homeopathic products and you have to go easy on the pain medication, how are you supposed to ease baby’s teething discomfort? Well, rubber and silicone teethers and soothers are a good alternative. They give your child something to bite down on which helps them to soothe themselves. But there’s no need to rush out and buy a bunch of teethers just yet — freezing a damp washcloth in a sandwich bag for half an hour works just as well. Rubbing your child’s gums with a clean finger for a few minutes can also help.

You might be dreading your baby’s first teeth, or maybe you’re looking forward to the day when they can munch away with the rest of the family. Maybe your baby loses two nights of sleep for every tooth they cut, or maybe you don’t even notice they’re teething until their first little gnasher comes through. In either case, as with all things baby-related, everything will be completely different in a few weeks. And if you’re concerned that your baby’s teeth aren’t coming in normally, speak to a pediatrician.

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