Ah, the one topic many parents dread most: baby teeth. You can’t brush them without dealing with stiff resistance from your little one – but even before you get to that point, good luck dealing with everything when the first set starts coming through.
“What in the world is going on?!”, you ask yourself as you’re terrified seeing some of the sudden changes your baby starts displaying out of nowhere. But calm down, it’s only their teeth coming through! 🙂
Look out for any one of the following signs that could possibly indicate your baby is teething.
Teething Symptoms: What Signs Should I Look Out For?
Before we begin listing some of the most common signs and symptoms of teething in babies, it should be made clear that this experience is unique to each and every baby out there on their own.
What your child experiences and goes through when their first pair of teeth emerge through their gums is not going to be identical to what your friend’s baby experienced and went through.
So, know that your little one might experience very few (or many) of the signs and symptoms discussed in the following list below. In most cases, though, it would be very rare if your baby does not experience at least a few of these signs when teething.
1) Increased Biting
We all know how curious babies are and how they seem to want to chew on everything they can get a hold of.
That’s cute and all (not if you’re obsessed about germs the way I am, though) – but if you notice they’re biting stuff much more than usual nowadays, it might be because their teeth are starting to come in.
You’ll especially notice your baby’s desire to chew on hard items, not soft items. This is all due to the pressure and discomfort felt in their gums, caused by the emerging teeth.
This is not to say that they won’t gnaw on their own hands and fingers, though – but that’s just temporary stuff until they discover that digging their teeth into harder items is way more satisfying.
When you notice a significant uptick in this area, it’s about time you supply them with teething toys they can happily – and safely – dig into. These toys are often enough to give them all the relief they need.
Hopefully they won’t bite on your nipples while you’re breastfeeding them – but be warned, it does happen!
If it happens to you, take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only mom out there to have experienced nipple pain while breastfeeding from baby bites – in fact, there’s quite a lot out there who have experienced this before you, and even more who will after you.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “There is one other occurrence that parents in my practice mention: biting other people.
In most cases, the infant or toddler is not biting someone intentionally, but because of the reaction of the person being bitten, he/she may continue to bite, thinking it’s a game.
Sometimes, it’s just one person such as a parent, but often it is another daycare attendee (which is upsetting for the involved parents and daycare staff).
My recommendation is to make eye contact and say a firm “no,” then offer a teething toy instead. After a few attempts, this usually solves the problem.”
2) Increased Sucking
Very similarly to increased biting, your child will up their sucking game in attempts to ease the pain and discomfort.
3) Increased Drooling
Just like increased biting, when you notice your baby’s drooling more than usual, that’s another sign that they might be teething.
An important note that must be clarified though: don’t confuse newborn drooling with teething-associated drooling.
It’s perfectly fine for newborns to drool a lot at such a young age, since they’ve yet to master how to handle saliva forming in their mouths.
As they age and as they start to get used to this, you’ll notice a decrease in drooling – followed by a big uptick again when they begin teething.
During teething, they’ve already mastered how to handle normal amounts of saliva forming in their mouth, but it’s not their fault this time – their bodies create excessive amounts of saliva as a natural mechanism to help soothe their swollen gums.
With all of this excessive drooling going on, you’ll likely notice your baby develop rashes around their mouth and chin areas, as well as their chest area sometimes.
To avoid this from happening, make sure the excess drool gets wiped away on the spot, instead of being left on these areas for long periods of time at once.
You don’t want to over-do it with all the wiping, though, as that too can make your little one’s skin irritated just as well.
This is where baby bibs can come in very handy.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “The earliest I have seen increased drooling, along with chewing on fingers, is 3 months old.
The amount of drooling, however, increases dramatically after 4 months old. Here is an AAP link that discusses this further.
In addition to “wiping frequently” to reduce skin irritation from the saliva, I typically recommend an emollient cream or ointment such as Aquaphor. It provides a thick barrier of protection on the skin.”
4) Increased Coughing/Gagging
Is your baby coughing or gagging more than usual lately? If so, it could be because of all that teething-associated drool we just talked about.
Just make sure that their aren’t any other signs that suggest your baby’s excessive coughing is caused by something else such as a cold or flu.
If you notice these signs along with your little one’s sudden excessive coughing/gagging, a visit to the doctor’s (or at least a call) is a must.
5) Sleeping Difficulties
Used to having a baby who sleeps through the night with little to no waking up crying in between? Well, fasten your seat-belt – you’re in for quite the ride!
Expect your little one to frequently wake up crying in the middle of the night, looking for help from you to soothe their teething pain.
Also, don’t expect their nap times to be any better – you’re in for a treat with those as well. One minute you know they’ve fallen asleep on their nap mat like an angel, the next they’re back up all fussy and cranky because of the discomfort they’re feeling.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “It is worth mentioning the use of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Of course, I would suggest that parents consult a doctor to discuss the appropriate age they can be used and dosage.
However, in clinical practice, I find these medications can be helpful if an infant is waking, screaming in pain every hour through the night.
I usually recommend giving acetaminophen under the age of 6 months, or ibuprofen over 6 months old, for 2 to 3 nights during very painful teething weeks.
I also discourage the use of teething gels or tablets because of the potential
harmful effects of benzocaine or belladona.”
6) Increase In Temperature
Do you have a baby thermometer at home? Yes? Good. Not yet? Get one as soon as possible, because you’re going to need it.
When babies are about to teeth, many parents report they detect a slight increase in body temperature. It’s usually nothing too major or alarming, and generally remains under 37.7 degrees Celsius. This often gets referred to as a “teething fever”.
If your baby thermometer reading gives back a number higher than 38 degrees Celsius, there’s probably something else other than teething that’s causing this.
It could be another illness or an infection that needs medical treatment as soon as possible before it develops into something more dangerous.
7) Teething Rash
We’ve written a comprehensive guide about baby teething rash for you to learn more about.
In short, all the constant drooling your little one experiences when teething can (and often will if left unattended) cause redness and rashes around their mouth, chin and chest areas.
There’s only so much drool a baby’s tender skin can take before it’s had enough!
8) Not Much Eating
Babies in pain and discomfort from teething tend to eat less – sometimes way less – than normal.
Eating makes them feel more pain and discomfort than they’re already in, especially with all the soreness and swelling going on in their gums at the time, so they’ll give you a much harder time sticking to their feeding schedule.
This is something you’ll have to find a workaround for, so that they don’t fall way behind in their eating schedule and end up not gaining enough weight.
You’ll want to find the right balance where they continue to eat without feeling excruciating pain.
This is an area where you might need your doctor’s help with, so don’t be afraid to give them a call or visit for consultation.
This is true for both babies being breastfed/bottle fed or babies being fed solids. If your little one refuses to feed for more than 48 hours, and is behind on schedule because of that, get in contact with your pediatrician right away.
9) Not Much Drinking
The same goes for drinking – they won’t feel like doing much of it (if you’ve already started introducing liquids such as juice and pure water) because that only makes their mouths hurt even more.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “This tends to be more of an issue with bottle-fed infants.
They experience pain on the front gums because of the bottle nipple, and tend to “pull away” during bottle feeding. I find that this is less of an issue in breastfed infants.
In most cases, I have not seen issues with dehydration or decreased wet diapers as a result of this intermittent reduced fluid intake.”
Your child will become visibly irritated during this stage, doing unusual things like pulling their ears and rubbing around their chins and cheeks.
This is perfectly normal and nothing for you to panic about, though, as it’s all part of their natural mechanism to relieve some of the pain they’re going through.
You can also expect a lot of crankiness and uncalled-for-crying, but cut your little one some slack – the pain they’re going through is truly a pain in the butt (to say the least)!
You should also know that your kid can start getting irritated much more than usual before their tooth erupts – around 4 days before, as a matter of fact.
11) Diarrhea & Stool Problems
If your little one has a bad case of diarrhea, especially if it lasts for more than 24 hours at once, this could be another sign of teething.
It should be noted, though, that from this entire list of possible teething symptoms, diarrhea is the one experts associate the least with teething – simply due to the fact that it could be caused by a million other things.
You should be careful not to leave your little one suffering from diarrhea unattended, because not only will that make them dehydrated – it’ll also lead to diaper rash in the process.
If – at any given point in time – you notice blood in your baby’s stool, inform your doctor about it to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “Although some parents believe there is an association, teething does not cause diarrhea.”
12) Red, Everywhere
Red cheeks, swollen red gums, you name it – you’re going to be seeing a whole lot of red during this phase!
When Do These Symptoms Start To Appear?
If your answer to that question was “well, when my baby’s teeth begin to appear, genius!” – then think again.
These teething signs and symptoms can start to appear way before your child has a visible tooth – around 3 months before a tooth emerges, in fact.
Note from Dr. Leah Alexander, M.D., F.A.A.P.: “The AAP has a great page with general information about teething, including a chart for when which teeth erupt.
Here’s a link to the article if you’d like to learn more about all of this.”
How Long Will These Symptoms Last For?
Again, this is going to differ from one baby to another.
Some babies and their parents are exceptionally lucky because little to no symptoms rear their ugly head at all, and those that do only last for an incredibly short period of time (sometimes only a couple of days).
Other babies and their parents aren’t nearly as lucky, since many symptoms are experienced and possibly last for several weeks to months on end.
Should I Be Worried If These Signs Don’t Appear In Time?
Not necessarily – you might just happen to have a late teether in your baby, which is completely normal.
For most babies, you can expect to notice a few (or many) of these symptoms between the ages of 4 months and 7 months, which is when most begin to teethe.
However, some babies take longer than 7 months of age to begin teething, and that’s no reason to panic and think that something’s wrong with your little one. Rest assured that your little one’s teeth will come in when they’re ready – latecomers or not, it’ll all be okay!
When Should I Call My Doctor?
The teething phase is quite delicate, one where you should keep an eye on any symptoms that raise a red flag and scream out “call the doctor!”.
Here’s a list of some (but not all) of what you should be on the lookout for, since these symptoms are not usually associated with teething.
- Temperature higher than 101 Fahrenheit (38.3 Celsius)
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours at once
- Body rashes
You should also obviously talk to your doctor if you’re afraid the pain and discomfort is a bit too much for your baby to handle.
They’ll then tell you whether or not giving your baby medication such as Ibuprofen to help relieve the pain and discomfort is a good idea, how much of it you should be administering, and for how long before you should call it quits.
Wrapping It Up
So, there you have it!
Just because your little one is acting all differently lately, or showing unusual signs and symptoms you’re not used to seeing from them before, doesn’t mean you have to go into panic mode and fear for their life.
You also shouldn’t dismiss it as something that will go away on its own, either. Take the time to learn about what foods you can feed them and what else you can do to help soothe their teething pain, and be patient throughout.
This phase will pass, too, mama – and everything will soon be back to normal again! (Not that it ever is with a little munchkin in the house, really).