Should Your Child See a Doctor?
- Questions about teething, the normal process of new primary teeth working their way through the gums
- Teeth come in between 6 and 24 months of age
- Caution: At least one tooth should be visible before using this topic.
- Main symptoms are increased saliva, drooling and desire to chew on things.
- Occasional symptoms: mild gum pain. Usually, not enough to cause crying or interfere with sleep.
- Does not cause fever, diarrhea, diaper rash, ill appearance or lowered resistance to infection.
- Caution: Blaming teething for fevers can lead to a delayed diagnosis of ear infections, urinary tract infections, meningitis and other infections.
- Caution: Blaming teething for crying can lead to a delayed diagnosis of ear infections or other causes of pain.
- There are 2 reasons for the onset of infections between 6 and 12 months of age: The loss of transplacental antibodies and the developmental milestone of chewing on everything.
When to Call Your Doctor for Teething
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
- Normal teething and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for Teething
- Teething is a natural process.
- It's harmless and may cause a little gum pain.
- It doesn't cause fever or crying. If present, look for another cause.
- Gum Massage:
- Find the irritated or swollen gum.
- Massage it with your finger for 2 minutes.
- Do this as often as necessary.
- Putting pressure on the sore gum can reduce pain.
- You may use a piece of ice wrapped in a wet cloth to massage the gum.
- Teething Rings or Teething Biscuits:
- Infants massage their own sore gums by chewing on smooth, hard objects.
- Offer a teething ring, pacifier or wet washcloth that has been chilled in the refrigerator, but not frozen in the freezer. A piece of chilled banana may help.
- Avoid hard foods that could cause choking (e.g., raw carrots).
- Avoid ice or popsicles that could cause frostbite of the gums.
- Cup Feeding: If your infant refuses nipple feedings, use a cup, spoon or syringe temporarily.
- Pain Medicine: If the pain increases, give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) orally for 1 day. Special teething gels are unnecessary and are not recommended. They can cause allergic reactions or choking.
- Teething Gels: Not Advised
- You can get special teething gels without a prescription.
- Most have benzocaine in them. They are not approved by the FDA until after 2 years old.
- Reason: Benzocaine can cause choking, bluish skin and allergic reactions.
- Also, teething gels only give brief pain relief.
- Gum massage works much better.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Develops unexplained crying
- Develops fever
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "When to Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
- Anderson JE. Nothing but the tooth: dispelling myths about teething. Contemp Pediatr. 2004;21 (7):75-88.
- Jaber L, Cohen IJ, Mor A. Fever associated with teething. Arch Dis Child. 1992;67:233-234.
- Macknin ML, Piedmonte M, Jacobs J, Skibiski C. Symptoms associated with infant teething: A prospective study. Pediatrics. 2000;105:747-752.
- Schuman AJ. The truth about teething. Contemp Pediatr. 1992;9:75-80.
- Wake M, Hesketh K and Allen MA. Parent beliefs about infant teething: A survey of Australian parents. J Paediatr Child Health. 1999;35:446-449.
- Wake M, Hesketh K, Lucas J. Teething and tooth eruption in infants: A cohort study. Pediatrics. 2000;106:1374-1379.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 9/23/2010 1:41:59 PM
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.