Teething is something that can be painful and uncomfortable, resulting in quite a bit of stress and sleepless nights. However, at the same time, it is something perfectly normal that practically all parents have to deal with.
Some teething symptoms may seem alarming initially, but there are a few that doctors ignore, for as long as they’re limited to a certain threshold. Note that sometimes different doctors disagree on which symptoms warrant attention, so if you have any concerns, it’s still best to give your baby’s pediatrician a call.
While some experts think that drooling is caused more by the introduction to solid foods rather than teething itself, it is a pretty common symptom during this period. After all, some babies’ first tooth erupts at six months of age (although some babies can get them earlier or later), which is around the time that parents usually introduce food other than breastmilk. Some other experts, however, believe that the excess saliva is a reaction to the inflammation and provides a mild cooling effect to your baby’s gums.
Regardless of the actual cause, drooling around the teething period is pretty normal. At this time, your baby may not quite know what to do with all the excess saliva and will just let it flow instead of swallowing.
If, however, your baby begins to experience abdominal pains during or after feedings and frequent vomiting along with the drooling, you may want to inform your doctor of these symptoms as well. Your doctor may want to test for infant acid reflux.
14 A Swollen Cheek
Just like any other toothache, your baby may get a red, sore and swollen cheek. Typically, this happens on only one side around the area where the tooth is erupting. However, it may also occur on both sides if two teeth are erupting at the same time on opposite sides. This is pretty much a classic sign of teething that occurs because the erupting tooth can irritate surrounding tissues as it comes out.
If, however, your child gets a fever above 38˚celsius or 100.4˚fahrenheit, or experiences swelling down across the jawline as well, it may be a symptom of mumps. Do note, however, that mumps is pretty rare in countries where the majority of children receive the MMR vaccine. If, however, your baby is unvaccinated or has a weak immune system and she experiences these symptoms, you may want to see a doctor who can confirm this diagnosis.
13 Swollen Gums
A more telling sign of teething than swollen cheeks, swollen gums are usually brushed off by the doctor as something normal for your baby’s age. The swelling will typically be limited to the area around where the tooth is erupting.
It’s also good to be aware that this swelling may be a worse when the molars, or the teeth toward the back, are erupting compared to when the incisors and canines, or the teeth toward the front, are coming out. This is because the incisors and canines are pretty sharp and can prick through the gums with relatively little trouble. The molars and premolars, however, are boxier and blunter. They may therefore take a longer time and cause more irritation when they come out.
It’s easy to tell that the swelling is caused by your baby’s tooth. If you touch the area over the affected gums (make sure you do this with clean hands!) you will be able to feel the hard surface of the teeth.
12 Gum Blister
Some babies develop something called an eruption cyst or an eruption hematoma. This usually presents as a fluid-filled blister or a purple discoloration over the erupting tooth. Like the gum swelling, this is a result of the irritation, as well as the pressure, that the tooth is exerting against the gum as it comes out.
Don’t attempt to pop it. In a majority of cases, it will resolve on its own as the tooth manages to break free from the gum. In addition, popping it yourself may cause more injury than you intended and can result in infection.
However, if the eruption cyst does not go away in about two weeks or so, if it becomes extremely painful for your child or if it begins to bleed without any signs of the tooth going out, you may want to consult a pediatric dentist. They will be able to incise the gum gently to drain the fluid and release pressure.
11 Compulsive Chewing
When your baby is teething, she’s going to want to chew on anything she can get her tiny little mouth around. The act of chewing can stimulates the affected gum and therefore reduces any discomfort and pain. In particular, chewing on something cold can help ease teething pains.
This chewing can be problematic if your baby gets her hands on something dirty or is a choking hazard. It’s therefore wise to provide her with a teething ring or teething biscuits that can help her relieve herself without the hazards.
Teething may also pose a problem for breastfeeding moms as they can graze against the nipple, causing quite a lot of pain. With a good latch and certain nursing positions, however, it will be physically impossible for your baby to bite while she’s sucking. However, this also means that you’ll have to take her off the breast as soon as she’s done so she doesn’t do any post-meal biting!
10 Decrease in Appetite
Because of the discomfort of teething, your baby may suddenly lose her appetite. If this is associated with other teething symptoms and does not come with other more alarming symptoms such as high fever, diarrhea, vomiting or weakness, your doctor will not be alarmed. This can, however, be worrying to the concerned parent who previously had a baby who took in plenty of milk. Usually your baby will resume her normal eating habits in no time.
If, however, the poor appetite continues for more than a week or if she hasn’t taken anything at all in 24 hours, you may want to check with your doctor. It also helps to keep track of your baby’s weight. If she’s steadily gaining weight, even if she hasn’t been eating as much as usual, then she should be fine. If, however, she begins losing weight or does not gain any at all, a doctor’s appointment is in order.
9 Night Crying
Teething pains can wake your baby up in the middle of the night. This may stand out against daytime crying because during the day, there may be plenty of things that stimulate and distract your child from the pain. During night time, however, she won’t have any distractions and therefore might be a bit more sensitive to even the least amount of discomfort. If this isn’t accompanied with any other symptoms, it’s usually no cause for worry.
When this happens, you may be able to calm your baby down with a cold teething ring. She will usually go back to sleep once she gets tired. If, however, the night time tooth troubles don’t go away, you may want to consult your doctor for an age-appropriate dose of pain relief such as paracetamol. Also, don’t try out teething gels without your doctor’s approval. Some teething gels may contain benzocaine, which can be potentially dangerous for your little one.
8 Ear Pulling
Surprisingly, ear pulling can be a symptom of teething. This is particularly if your baby’s lower teeth are affected. This is because the jaw area and your ears share a nerve pathway via the trigeminal nerve. Because of this, babies may sense that the discomfort is around the ear, even when the pain is actually in her gums. Your baby may also find some relief by tugging at her ear.
Many doctors consider this a harmless symptom of teething, especially if it comes with the telltale bulge on her gums. However, you may also want to watch out for symptoms that could point out that the ear pulling is not the result of teething but of an ear infection or allergy. That is, if your baby has a runny nose or an ear discharge that comes along with the ear pulling, you may want to have your doctor take a closer look.
7 Cheek Rubbing
Another area that shares a nerve with the jaw area is the cheek. Your baby may perceive the pain as superficial jaw pain rather than something occurring inside her mouth. She may therefore rub her cheek against anything she can find. The outside stimulation may also provide a distraction from the greater discomfort inside her mouth.
Unlike ear pulling, however, cheek rubbing is usually a harmless symptom and does not indicate anything serious that your doctor may want to look into. You do, however, want to make sure that your baby does not rub her cheek against anything abrasive. This is a bit obvious, but keep rough and sharp surfaces away from your baby’s crib or play area at all times. Since she may also be drooling a lot, be sure to change her bib and beddings frequently. Rubbing her cheek against beddings that are wet with saliva could cause irritation and rash.
6 Temporary Fussiness or Irritability
If your baby is sometimes fussy and irritable, your doctor may dismiss this as part of her teething troubles. This is because, as you can imagine, teething is simply uncomfortable. Your baby does not quite yet understand the world around her and what she’s feeling, let alone the soreness from a bone-hard tooth trying to push through her gums!
Usually, though, irritability related to teething is intermittent. That is, it comes and it goes. This is because teething pain is typically mild compared to other sorts of pain. If she’s adequately distracted or busy doing what babies do, the pain is likely to recede into the background.
If, however, your baby is inconsolable for hours and hours, it’s not likely that it’s due to teething pains. This is especially when a cold teether doesn’t provide ample distraction. Such fussiness may be caused by something like colic or an ear infection.
5 Chin Rash
Because of the increased amount of saliva flowing down your little one’s cheeks, he may be prone to rashes. This is because saliva is slightly acidic and contains enzymes that could irritate your baby’s sensitive skin.
Now, any rash at all is likely to alarm concerned parents. There are, after all, several other more serious conditions that could trigger a rash. However, if the rash is limited to the chin area and if your doctor cannot find other symptoms such as fever or rashes in other parts of the body, she’s likely to recommend a moisture repelling cream and send you straight home. Regular petroleum jelly (Vaseline) works well.
One more thing you can do to prevent drool-related rashes is to ensure that your baby’s skin, not to mention her clothes and beddings, are kept clean and dry. Now, this is can be challenging when your baby is something of a saliva-producing factory, but it’s still worth doing to prevent rashes.
If your baby develops a fever or gets rashes in other parts of her body, however, you may want to see your doctor again.
4 Low-Grade Fever (in babies less than 3 months old)
Fever is a bit of a tricky symptom. When your baby is teething, the inflammation caused by the teeth poking against her gums may be enough to elevate her temperature just a bit. This could result in her being a bit hot to touch or a bit feverish.
As a general rule, however, any fever in an infant less than three months old always warrants a doctor’s appointment. This is because your baby’s immune system is not yet well developed at this time and any infection at all could possibly turn serious.
For older babies, doctors tend to disagree a bit on when consultation is needed. Some doctors say that low-grade fever or anything between 37°C / 99.5°F and 38°C or 100.3°F is fine. Some, however, will say that any fever at all is worth looking into. All doctors, however, will say that a fever at 38°C or 100.4°F could signal an infection and not merely be a teething symptom.
Another teething sign is when your baby keeps on bringing her closed fist or her fingers to her mouth. She may even begin chewing on them to relieve the discomfort of teething. However, in some kids this could only be because they’ve recently discovered a new part of their body (their hands) and are beginning to explore it.
For teething tots, however, fist-chewing isn’t likely to be harmful. Your baby will be able to learn if a certain amount of pressure causes pain and she’s likely to stop when that happens. Do make sure to dry out her hands and her face afterwards so that the saliva doesn’t go on and irritate her skin. Some parents find that putting mittens on baby is a great way to keep her from spreading drool everywhere. Just make sure to change them when they get too wet. Or you could just get her to hold a teething ring, which is good practice in bringing objects to her mouth!
2 Intermittent Coughing or Gagging
Because of the drool going around everywhere, some of it may go down your baby’s throat and result in coughing or gagging. Your baby still doesn’t have much control over his bodily functions and so he may not yet know how to swallow it. Now, these can be alarming symptoms given certain conditions, but your doctor will be able to tell if it’s a harmless teething symptom or something more. If you’re not sure what is causing the cough, exactly, you may want to check with your doctor just to be sure.
However, if it comes with other symptoms such as fever or difficulty breathing, or if your baby coughs for long periods of time without relief (drool-related cough usually resolves after a short while), you may definitely want to get your baby checked. This sort of cough could be the result of an allergy or an infection, both of which may require additional treatment.
1 A Lump in the Gums
This is probably the most obvious and tell-tale sign that your baby is teething! Initially, when the tooth isn’t too far up, you may not be able to feel the little tooth under your little one’s gums at first. As it progresses out, however, you may be able to see and feel that hard little lump that’s a sign that your baby’s first tooth is about to erupt!
The first teeth you can expect to come out are your baby’s incisors. These are the first four front teeth on both your upper and lower jaw. Afterwards, your baby may get a molar or two before the sharp canines appear.
Make sure you take your baby to her first dentist’s appointment within six months of the first tooth coming out or at around a year old. This can help you and your child’s dentist assess her teeth and discuss the best method of making sure that she keeps healthy and cavity-free!