Cutting teeth is an important milestone in babies’ physical development. Unfortunately, getting new teeth is an uncomfortable experience for some babies. Teething may cause fussiness, drooling and other signs of discomfort. Child care providers and parents can help babies get through the teething process.
Baby teeth begin appearing in most babies during the first year of life. The eruption of teeth does not begin at the same age for all children. Child care providers may notice an infant drooling, chewing on hands or toys and acting fussier than usual. These are all signs a child may be teething.
The two lower front teeth usually appear between 3 and 12 months of age. By 2 years of age children generally have at least 16 teeth. By 3 years of age children will have all 20 baby teeth. See the American Dental Association’s Tooth Eruption Chart for more information on the approximate ages teeth appear.
These first teeth are very important even though they will be replaced later with permanent teeth. Baby teeth help children eat properly, assist in speech development, act as space holders for permanent teeth and improve appearance.
Ways to Help a Teething Baby
Teething can be uncomfortable. Here are a few strategies child care providers can consider when a baby is teething.
- Provide something hard to chew on. Biting on a smooth, hard teething ring may soothe the irritated gums. Be sure to place a used teething ring out of the reach of other babies to avoid spreading germs.
- Use cold teething rings. Placing a teething ring in the refrigerator is soothing for some babies. The cold numbs the gums slightly and reduces pain.
- Be patient with drooling. Many babies drool more when they are teething. The drooling will improve once the new teeth come in. If drooling is extreme, consider putting a small bib around the baby’s neck to keep clothes dry.
- Get parents’ permission before giving medications. Many babies do not need pain medication during teething, but some parents may give infant acetaminophen to soothe the pain. Never give an infant medication unless parents have signed a permission form specifying the dose and frequency.