Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Why Does Teething Hurt For Babies?

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published January 20, 2023

Teething can be a painful and difficult process for both babies and parents because infants may become especially fussy or seemingly sick while their new teeth emerge. As a parent, it can be challenging to know how to help. Set yourself up for success by learning what to expect and why this process takes such a toll on your little one. When your child’s teeth do start to emerage parents should start brushing their child’s teeth two times a day.

Stages in Teething

0 to 6 Months 

Babies are born with a full set of twenty teeth hidden beneath the gums. These are often referred to as ‘milk teeth’ because during this period the baby’s diet consists strictly of milk. There are babies that start showing signs of their first tooth eruption around 3 months of age, but this is uncommon. During this period there should be limited to no signs of irritation stemming from the teething process.

6 to 10 Months 

Hooray! Your baby’s first teeth should be here soon! Typically the first teeth to erupt are the front teeth, the incisors. It is common for the bottom incisors to emerge, followed by the top incisors. Though signs of discomfort may start earlier, the incisors erupt around 6 months of age. Before the eruption, the outline of the teeth often may be felt and seen beneath the gums, and the baby will usually begin chewing more excessively on hands, toys, and other items they’re able to get their hands on. At this point, it is beneficial and almost necessary to provide proper chew devices and/or remedies to satisfy the need for pressure on the gums to help relieve pain and provide a distraction. You may also notice an increase in drool. A small bib worn throughout the day can make it easy to keep the baby’s face dry and prevent a rash from developing, preventing further discomfort. It’s also never too early to start an oral care routine!

10 to 14 Months 

At this stage the first primary molars begin to emerge. Primary molars are located in the upper and lower jaw, towards the back of the mouth. These teeth are larger and tend to be met with loss of appetite and an increase in drool, crankiness, and the urge to chew. You may begin to notice a shift in sleep pattern due to additional discomfort. It is not uncommon for both parents and babies to suffer restless nights during this stage. If your baby seems to be in severe pain or showing high levels of discomfort, speak to your physician about recommended medicines and remedies. Parental brushing two times every day should be a part of a child’s daily routine by this point.

16 to 22 Months

During this stage, your baby’s canine teeth will erupt. The canines are located in the area between the molars and the incisors. Once these teeth have grown you’ll start to notice a more developed smile on your baby!

25 to 36 Months 

Lastly, the secondary primary molars will erupt. These are the largest teeth. This tends to be the most painful time of teething for children. Soothing your baby may take more effort, but be patient because the teething process is almost over. Take the time to test out new soothing remedies to ease the extra discomfort. We have some recommendations below. Most children have their full set of developed primary teeth by 36 months of age, or 3 years old.

Why Teething Hurts

Why does teething hurt so much? A baby’s teeth begin to develop while they are in the womb. When they begin to erupt they are emerging through the gum line.Their teeth don’t actually cut through the gums, but hormones are released within the body that cause cells in the gums to die and separate in order to allow the teeth to come through. This process can lead to tenderness, swelling, and overall discomfort. Sometimes, a low-grade fever may be present as well.

The period of teething also alligns with the period of time there is a progressing reduction in immune function. Babies are switching from passive to active immunity due to the loss of antibodies they received from their mother.  This lowered immunity function comes at a time when they’re starting to put their hands and other foreign objects in their mouth because of teething. Being exposed to bacteria from these objects to your baby’s erupting and raw gums can lead to infections and illness. What may seem like teething symptoms may be an unrelated ailment.

Tips for Soothing a Teething Baby

  • Apply light pressure and rub a clean finger over your baby’s sore gums to ease the pain temporarily.
  • Use a cold, damp washcloth to massage the gums which can supply relief and help reduce inflammation.
  • Provide your baby with a teething ring. It’s best to avoid liquid-filled products that can burst or leak. Opt for silicone or rubber based teething rings which are easier to disinfect and resistant to cracking. For extra relief, put the teething ring in the fridge. Do not put teething rings in the freezer because the temperatures can cause damage to the gumline. 
  • There are over-the-counter pain relief medicines available, but it’s best to consult your pediatrician for recommendations. 

Let Us Help

Teething can be a stressful process for both parents and babies. Understanding where the pain is stemming from and these developmental milestones can help you best support your teething infant. Reach out to your local pediatric dentist for additional guidance. Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa has been partnering with parents since 1975. Contact us today to jumpstart your baby’s oral health journey!

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