Signs And Symptoms Of Baby Teething And How To Deal With It

The phrase “teething troubles” didn’t creep into our everyday language without reason! The arrival of your baby’s teeth is less a milestone than a process that’s quite unpredictable and varies in time, duration, and symptoms from one child to another. While one baby will sail through this phase with minimal trouble, another can have a difficult time, leaving her parents vexed and weary. Knowing what to expect when your baby goes through teething can help you manage this brief phase with more confidence.

When Does Teething Begin?

No one can tell for sure when a baby will begin teething. The majority of babies will get their first teeth before their first birthday. Some babies have teeth at birth, while for others, the first tooth peeps out at 4 months or after a year. Most babies get their first tooth around 6 months.1

Baby Teeth And How They Appear

Babies usually get their teeth in this order:

  • 5–7 months: The bottom front teeth, known as bottom incisors, are the first to appear.
  • 6–8 months: The top incisors (top front teeth) follow.
  • 9–11 months: The top lateral incisors on either side of the top front teeth come next.
  • 10–12 months: The bottom lateral incisors peep out on either side of the bottom front incisors.
  • 12–16 months: The first molars or back teeth appear.
  • 16–20 months: The canines emerge, nearer to the back of the mouth.
  • 20–30 months: The second molars come out.

Most babies will get all their milk teeth by the time they are 2.5 years old.2


Signs And Symptoms Of Teething In Babies: What’s Real, What’s Not

The tooth fairy unfairly favors some babies, their first teeth emerging with no symptoms or discomfort at all. Others are not so lucky. How can you tell if your baby is teething?

Normal Signs Of Teething: What To Expect

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there isn’t one set of definite symptoms that predict teething. Look out for one or more of these signs, but know that they needn’t necessarily occur in your baby’s case.3


Teething Window: According to one study that looked at 475 tooth eruptions in over a 100 children, symptoms become more frequent in the 4 days before a tooth emerges, on the day it emerges, and 3 days after the tooth has popped out. This 8-day window is called the teething period.4

Tender gum: The gums may be tender, red, or swollen around the spot where the tooth is pushing out.


Irritability: The baby can be restless or fussy, or may show signs of discomfort. Her sleeping pattern may also be disturbed.

Flushed cheek: Your baby’s cheek may be flushed or red on the side where the tooth is emerging.


Excessive drooling: You’ll find the baby drools and spits more than usual.

Facial rashes: Many babies also develop a facial rash while teething. This is often attributed to the excessive drooling and contact with saliva. But rashes in places other than the face is not associated with teething. Remember, a nappy rash is not a direct sign of teething.


Gnawing on objects: The baby will attempt to rub the gums and bite and gnaw at objects.

Ear rubbing: There may be some ear discomfort on the side where the tooth is emerging. As a result, the baby may tug or rub her ears.


Loss of appetite for solid food: The baby will be able to swallow liquid foods but may refuse solid foods. This aversion could be because of the sore or inflamed gums.

A slight increase in temperature: The baby’s body temperature may rise slightly and she may feel warmer when the teeth begin to erupt. But this is a subtle change and does not take the form of a fever.5

Teething symptoms peak when a baby’s front teeth are emerging between 6 months and 1¼ years of age. As children grow older, these often distressing symptoms decrease.6

False Signs Of Teething: What Isn’t Normal

Along with these widely observed signs, babies may display a host of other symptoms that can be quite disturbing to new parents. But how many of them are actually linked to teething?

While teething can cause a baby discomfort, it doesn’t usually make the baby sick.7

Medical observers say that teething roughly coincides with the period when a baby begins to lose the natural immunity she has received from her mother during birth and in the earliest months of life. Therefore, during this phase, she is exposed to a wide range of childhood ailments that aren’t necessarily linked to teething.8 Let’s look at some signs that are often incorrectly associated with teething.


Fever can be a puzzling symptom. A baby’s body temperature may rise slightly when the first teeth begin to erupt. But here’s the catch – this increase is not high enough to be considered a fever, say medical researchers who conducted an international study on the possible link between teething and falling ill.9

If a teething baby does develop a “true fever” (over 38°C/100.4°F), it could be a genuine illness or infection unconnected with teething.10 So don’t brush fever off as a symptom of teething.

Other Common Illnesses

These symptoms that may crop up during the teething phase are not necessarily linked to it:

  • Rashes other than in the face
  • Diarrhea or vomiting: The baby will not develop loose or frequent stools as a result of teething. Neither is vomiting associated with teething
  • Rhinorrhea or a runny nose and congestion are not directly linked to teething.11 12

The bottom line is, if your baby develops fever, loose stools, or vomiting during the teething period, do consult a pediatrician to diagnose the exact cause of her sickness.13

Natural Ways To Help Baby With Teething Trouble

You don’t need medication to see your baby through with what is, after all, a natural and very temporary phase in her growth and development. Try these tips to help ease any discomfort:

1. Home-Made Teething Aids

If she’s desperate to chew on something, give your baby something cool but hard enough to assuage her aching gums. A baby washcloth or clean, rolled-up sock placed in the freezer for about 20–30 minutes is a simple way to keep a fretful baby occupied for some time.

2. Food-Based Teething Aids

Freeze a banana, bagel, or carrot stick for the baby to chew on. Remember to remove them from the freezer before they become rock hard. There’s no limit on time – let your baby chew as long as she wants to. Do keep a watch that the baby does not swallow whatever object she is using.14

If your baby has moved to solid foods, you could give her cold yogurt to soothe her aching gums. Foods rich in vitamin A and bioflavonoids are thought to play a beneficial role by promoting tissue healing.15

3. Teething Rings And Gels: Better Avoided

Teething rings with liquid are often not recommended as there’s a danger of bacterial contamination. Also, a baby’s tooth could pierce the ring and come in contact with the liquid. Plastic teething rings have got a bad press due to the presence of phthalates and many parents would rather avoid them.16

Babies over 4 months old are often treated with a sugar-free gel that is rubbed on the gums. Gels may contain an antiseptic that will relieve any discomfort and keep the baby’s gums free of infection if the skin is broken.17 However, they are getting bad press too. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against them, warning of risks such as localized reactions. There is also the possibility of seizures due to an overdose. Teething gels with benzocaine are not to be used by infants or children under 2 years of age according to the Food and Drug Association, unless under the strict supervision of a doctor. It is associated with a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which reduces the oxygen carried through the bloodstream.18 19

Tips To Help Your Baby With Teething Problems

  • Ensure that everything you use as a teething aid is cleaned after use.
  • Older babies (6–9 months) can be given a sippy cup with cool water to satisfy the urge to suck something hard.
  • If your baby’s teeth haven’t yet appeared, allow her to gnaw on your own finger, making sure it’s clean, of course.
  • While breastfeeding, a teething baby may want to chew on her mother’s nipples just before a feed. One way to circumvent this is to dip your fingers into chilled water and massage the baby’s gums before starting the feed.20

Remedies For Teething From Alternative Systems Of Medicine

Alternative systems of medicine offer simple, herb-based remedies to see babies through this brief but troublesome phase of early development.

1. Massage With Medicated Ghee

Ayurveda views teething as a vata experience. Massaging the gum with medicated ghee (with licorice, shatavari, and other herbs) can help. So can using a powder of amalaki or pippali with honey or ghee.21 Ayurvedic texts generally recommend massaging a baby’s teeth gently with bee honey.22 But due to the fear of botulism, many practitioners steer clear of this now. To be safe, consult an ayurvedic practitioner who can guide you through the process and provide the right remedies.

2. Try Chamomilla Remedies From Homeopathy

In homeopathy, chamomilla, with its soothing properties, is recommended for teething babies who are irritable and restless. Calc phos is another homeopathic preparation for older children who seem to have digestive problems as well. Do remember, it’s important to meet a homeopath who will prescribe the right medication based on the baby’s symptoms and advise you on dosage and duration.23

3. Use Clove Oil

A drop of clove oil can help to numb sore gums. Mix a drop in 1 or 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, dip your forefinger in it, and gently massage the gum.24

While these natural aids for teething are generally safe, it’s advisable to consult your baby’s pediatrician before resorting to them.