Recognising signs of a teething in baby

Teeth help us break down food for our body to absorb. But did you know, our teeth actually start developing before birth? By the time a baby is around six to 10 months of age, the first baby teeth become visible as they start to push through the gums. Aside from visibly seeing the teeth push through, other signs of teething may include:

  • Reddened gums and/or redder cheeks
  • Crying or drooling more than usual
  • Biting or wanting to chew on things
  • Fussy behaviour
  • Not sleeping as per usual.

Myths and uncommon signs of teething

Our primary teeth usually appear over the first couple of years of life, and are eventually replaced by adult teeth in the later years. For some people teething doesn’t follow the expected process, for instance teeth can erupt later, not at all, appearing in a different pattern, or a combination of some or all of these events. It is also possible for some teeth to start to erupt but then stop before they fully emerge. Thankfully most of these things are aren’t too common, If you have any concerns for your child’s teething, speak with a dentist or doctor.

There are some common beliefs that teething is associated with other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea or fever – yet the evidence of such links isn’t clear. This isn’t to say that these symptoms may not occur during teething, but if they do, see a doctor as there may be other causes. Failing to properly manage these symptoms could lead to issues such as dehydration.

Understanding your baby's teething timeline

When up at night trying to comfort your teething baby, you might be wondering how long will this last? Teeth eruption can start anywhere from six-to-10 months, with all baby teeth usually appearing by ages two to  three years. The first teeth to appear are usually the upper and lower incisors (front teeth); they start to erupt anywhere from six to nine months of age. These are usually followed by the upper and lower canines between 17-23 months. Upper and lower molar appearance can vary, that is anywhere between 13-33 months of age. For each tooth, it can take up to eight days to fully emerge from the gum. So given teething will come and go over the early childhood years, having some safe strategies to help soothe a teething baby at night may be helpful.

How to help your teething baby sleep at night

To help both you and the rest of the family have a restful night, it may help to have some strategies on hand to comfort a teething child. Here we offer some tips that may help, but if you have any concerns always consult a dentist or doctor.

Creating a comfortable environment for sleep

Here are some general settling strategies that may help your little one be a little more comfortable:

  • Make sure their nappies are clean
  • Use familiar cues and strategies to settle them
  • Keep the room darkened, with few distractions
  • Wrap your baby or if they are really unsettled, you can try a “heartbeat” pat which is a gentle double-handed pat using a cupped hand at the pace of a slow heartbeat
  • Try gentle, slow body rocking
  • Maintain consistent and predictable bed and wake times
  • Use positive bedtime routines such as pre-sleep associations (such as reading, lullabies, taking your baby to where they usually sleep etc.).

Remember, whilst the discomfort associated with teething can cause sleep disruptions, teething may not be responsible for all sleeping issues. If you have any concerns consult your doctor.

The power of cuddles and comforting

Don’t underestimate the power of a cuddle to soothe a distressed child. Cuddle therapy involves holding and cuddling your little one to offer them some comfort and security. At the same time, try gentle distraction techniques such as playing with their favourite toy, reading or soft singing.

Benefits of gum massages

When it comes to soothing a teething baby at night, a gentle gum massage with either a clean finger or a cold compress can sometimes help them relax. Try not to apply too much pressure or use a compress that is too cold.

Appropriate teething tools and toys

Teething rings which are cooled (not frozen) may be useful to help soothe the gums of a teething baby at night. However not all teething tools are safe to use – for instance amber necklaces or necklaces with beads should be avoided as they can cause strangulation or become choking hazards if they break apart.

Natural remedies and pain relief options

There are both medicinal and non-medicinal strategies which might offer some pain relief for a teething baby. One non-medicinal approach is very gently rubbing the gums with a clean finger or using a chilled (not frozen) teething ring. Another option is a cold compress which might also help provide some symptomatic relief. You can also try rubbing the gums with a cool spoon. For older children on solids, try cutting and freezing their favourite fruits or vegetables into large pieces to suck on. Any pieces you prepare should be large enough so they can’t choke. You should always supervise your child when they are eating.
If non-medicinal approaches aren’t helping, there are pain relief medications available such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ibuprofen may be used for short-term relief of pain and inflammation associated with teething. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if medicinal pain relief is appropriate for your child.

Diet adjustments during teething

For a teething child, nutrition still matters, and one way you can try to get a little one who is already on solids to eat properly is to offer their favourite food(s) mashed up or puréed for a gentler texture. Other options include peeled cucumbers, frozen carrots or hardened sugar-free rusks for sucking. For parents or carers who are breast feeding you can try either a chilled teething ring, cold compress, or even gently rubbing their gums with a clean finger before feeding to help them settle. If you think teething is causing your child to not feed or drink as per usual, see your doctor as soon as possible to avoid other issues such as dehydration. When the teeth do eventually come through, don’t forget to start looking after them to prevent tooth decay!

When to seek professional help

You should seek professional help if you aren’t sure about your baby’s teething symptoms, or if your child is experiencing other symptoms such as diarrhoea, rash or fever. So during the teething years, don’t always assume all symptoms are linked to teething, and always see your doctor, dentist or pharmacist if you are unsure.