Teething and First Teeth: What You Need To Know

We tapped Board-certified pediatric dentist and mama, Dr. Fatina, to talk all things baby teething symptoms, brushing, and pediatric dental health.

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Lately, we have been fielding tons of questions from our digital community when it comes to teething…When should I start brushing my babe’s teeth? When should we make their first dentist appointment? Why is my baby struggling to sleep now that she’s teething? The list goes on! We hear you, we’ve been there, and we’re here to help! We tapped Board-certified pediatric dentist, mama, children’s book author, and owner of pediatric dental practice Gramercy Smiles, Dr. Fatina, to talk all things teething, brushing, and pediatric dental health! Let’s get into it. 

Signs of Teething

Ah yes, teething. This phase can be incredibly painful for your little to endure (and therefore, painful for you to deal with). A child may start teething as early as 3 months or after their first birthday. There is a range, of course, but usually six months is the average. Even though the first tooth may appear at six months, the teething stage (drooling, irritability, fussiness) will start a few months prior. Here a few signs or symptoms that may accompany your mini’s teething phase:  

  • Trouble Sleeping – If your baby is waking up and needs comfort, it may be teething related. At night time, there are fewer distractions and babies may wake more due to teething pain. 
  • Drooling – When a baby is teething excessive saliva is produced and you may feel like you’re constantly changing your little one’s bib. Your baby is also learning how to swallow and you may notice much more drooling.
  • Coughing – Excessive saliva in the mouth can also cause more coughing.
  • Crankiness/Discomfort – Your happy baby is no longer happy and smiling. Instead they are constantly crying, uncomfortable and just plain old fussy. 
  • Increase sucking – You may notice your baby is putting everything in their mouth, constantly biting and sucking. 
  • Loss of appetite – When you don’t feel well you tend to eat less. Same holds true for your little one. 
  • Rosy cheeks – Your babe’s skin might become irritated and red due to all that drooling.

It is important to remember teething is just another “growing pain.” The worst of your baby’s pain lasts a few days when the tooth pokes through the gums. Afterwards, the discomfort can come and go, but keep in mind that it will resolve! Everything is a phase when it comes to your little. 

Safe teething toys such as the Baby Banana Toothbrush can help your baby along in this process. However, if your babe is really struggling, Dr. Fatina recommends using a frozen washcloth, frozen celery, or cold pacifier on their gums to soothe the pain. Chilled chamomile on a clean washcloth also works wonders! Of course, lots of hugs, kisses and cuddles will help soothe your mini but, if you feel that your baby is super uncomfortable and crying constantly, you may want to turn to an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Children’s Tylenol. Dr. Fatina does not recommend any over-the-counter gels.

During teething, it is still important to make sure you are wiping your little’s gums twice a day, ideally in the morning and before bed, to remove any milk or food residue which will help with inflamed and tender gums. If a child is waking up at night for nursing or a bottle of milk, if teeth are present it is so important to remove any milk residue to prevent cavities. Starting early and wiping the gums will help set a lifetime of healthy habits. 

When to Start Oral Care

Despite the itch to over prepare, Dr. Fatina tells us that you should only start brushing your mini’s teeth once they have their first tooth. A soft bristled toothbrush is recommended twice a day, morning and night, in order to help keep your child’s mouth healthy. When brushing, use a grain size of fluoride toothpaste and lightly brush any of your babe’s teeth. Don’t overthink this—it doesn’t have to be a long and involved process, only 15-20 seconds will suffice! We can’t stress the importance of oral health care early on enough! If no brushing is incorporated at this age, the child will be more sensitive to oral care, and potentially have a harder time with teething or cavities. 

If your babe is totally rejecting this new routine, there are a few fun ways you can try to engage them! Incorporating a book, such as Dr. Fatina’s A Book About Teeth, is a great visual guide that may get your mini excited about tooth brushing. Of course, making the routine into a game of sorts (such as you brush my teeth, I’ll brush yours) is a tried and true way to engage your little, in addition to involving their older sibling or favorite stuffed animal to make it feel like a “party.” 

If you’re wondering whether you should be bringing your baby to the dentist at the first sign of teething, we’d suggest waiting it out! Dr. Fatina recommends bringing your babe to the dentist six months after their first tooth comes in or at one years old. That way, you can talk with your dentist about any issues you’ve been noticing, what your current routine is like, and how you can move forward. 

The habits you help your mini create around dental hygiene are majorly important for setting them up for a lifetime of dental health! Although it can sometimes feel confusing, irritating, or downright overwhelming (hi, parenthood!), remember that it is just a phase and you WILL get through it. 

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