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Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
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Teething is the normal process of new teeth working their way through the gums. Your baby's first tooth may appear any time between the time he is 3 months to 1 year old. Most children have completely painless teething. The only symptoms are increased saliva, drooling, and a desire to chew on things. Teething occasionally causes some mild gum pain, but it doesn't interfere with sleep. The degree of discomfort varies from child to child. Your child won't be miserable. When the back teeth (molars) come through (age 6 to 12 years), the overlying gum may become bruised and swollen. This is harmless and temporary.

Because teeth erupt almost continuously from 6 months to 2 years of age, many unrelated illnesses are blamed on teething. Fevers are also common during this time because after the age of 6 months, infants lose the natural protection provided by their mothers' antibodies.


Your baby's teeth will usually erupt in the following order:

  1. 2 lower incisors

  2. 4 upper incisors

  3. 2 lower incisors and all 4 first molars

  4. 4 canines

  5. 4 second molars.


  1. Gum massage

    Find the irritated or swollen gum. Massage it with your finger for 2 minutes. Do this as often as necessary. You may also massage the gum with a piece of ice.

  2. Teething rings

    Your baby's way of massaging his gums is to chew on a smooth, hard object. Solid teething rings and ones with liquid in the center (as long as it's purified water) are fine. Most children like them cold. A wet washcloth or banana chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes will please many infants. Avoid ice, Popsicles, or other frozen objects that could cause frostbite of the gums. Also avoid hard foods that he might choke on (like raw carrots). Teething biscuits are fine.

  3. Diet

    Avoid salty or acid foods. Your baby probably will enjoy sucking on a nipple, but if he complains, use a cup for fluids temporarily.

  4. Acetaminophen

    If the pain increases, give acetaminophen orally for 1 day. Special teething gels are unnecessary. Many teething gels contain benzocaine, which can cause an allergic reaction. If you want to use a gel, do not apply it more than four times a day.

  5. Common myths about teething
    • Teething does not cause fever, sleep problems, diarrhea, diaper rash, or lowered resistance to any infection. It probably doesn't cause crying. If your baby develops fever while teething, the fever is caused by something else.
    • Don't tie a teething ring around your baby's neck. It could catch on something and strangle your child. Attach it to your baby's clothing with a "catch-it-clip."


  • Your child develops a fever over 101 degrees F, or 38.3 degrees C.
  • Your child develops crying that doesn't have a cause.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems