Tips on Toddler Teething

Learn how to make your teething child more comfortable.
Table of contents

Tips on Toddler Teething


Don't try to soothe your teething child with a bottle (or breast). Because sucking may cause even more pain, avoid bottle-feeding if at all possible. Offer your baby a cup instead.

Fairy Tales

Looking for a teething amulet? It was once believed that a coral necklace worn around a child's neck would ease the passage of teeth through the gums. Other popular amulets to ease teething pain have included the first tooth shed by a horse or a wolf's tooth (the latter is a little harder to come by these days).

By the time your baby has her first birthday, she will probably have at least eight teeth. So what's the big deal with second year teeth? After all, the first eight teeth probably didn't even seem to upset your baby all that much. Oh, sure, maybe her gums were a little red and swollen and she drooled a little bit more than usual; she may have been a little irritable when those first teeth emerged, and maybe she—and you—lost a little sleep for a few nights. But hey, you gave your baby something to chew on, maybe something cold to numb her gums, and it probably passed pretty quickly and uneventfully.

The difference in the second year lies in the type of teeth that come in. The first eight teeth that appear are almost always incisors: the relatively thin, flat, and sharp front teeth used for biting rather than chewing. They cut through the gums fairly easily and therefore, cause little pain. The second year brings two sets of molars: the bigger and broader teeth that are used for chewing. These teeth have a harder time breaking through the gums. For this reason, they tend to cause more pain than incisors.

The first set of molars is usually cut between 12 and 15 months; a second set will probably come through in the months before your child's second birthday. Unfortunately, your baby will probably find them very painful and will, quite understandably, be miserable and irritated for days.

Although cutting molars will usually cause irritability, don't assume that your baby is teething just because she seems cranky. Look for another cause, especially if her irritability is accompanied by fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite. Teething cannot cause any of these symptoms; only illness can.

If you suspect teething as the source of your baby's changed mood, check it out for yourself. Look for swollen and red gums and then feel with your finger. You may be able to feel the lump of a tooth underneath the gums in the days before it appears. Cutting molars also may cause redness and warmth on the cheek of the affected side.

If your baby is cutting molars, the best thing you can do to help relieve the pain is to give her something to chew on. Offer your child a teething ring, a bagel, zwieback, a frozen banana, or something else that she likes to chew. A cold teether often can offer much needed comfort. (Some teething rings feature a gel on the inside that will cool inside a refrigerator.) A small ice cube wrapped in a clean dish towel combines the best virtues of any teething aid: hardness and coldness. You also can try giving her a cold, wet washcloth or a toothbrush to chew on.

If teething toys and other chewables don't do the trick, try rubbing the tooth or gum directly with your finger. Ask your pediatrician to recommend an herbal or medicinal pain reliever that you can apply directly to the gums. Also consult your doctor about using liquid acetaminophen to ease the pain associated with teething. One way or another, you and your child will get through this painful first set of molars. And in about eight months, you can look forward to going through it all over again.