Teething is when new teeth begin to come through your child's gums. A child's first tooth usually appears between 4 and 8 months of age. Your child should have 20 primary (baby) teeth by the time he or she is 3 years old.

What are the signs and symptoms of teething?

The most common signs of teething are when your child sucks, chews, or bites his or her fingers, toys, or other objects. He or she may also have any of the following:

  • Drooling or a face rash
  • Sore, tender gums
  • Irritable or fussy behavior
  • Trouble sleeping
  • A small red or white spot where the tooth is coming in

How can I help my child feel better while he or she is teething?

  • Let him or her chew. Give your child a cold (not frozen) teething ring or pacifier to chew on. Wet a clean cloth with cold water and offer it to your child to chew on. Do not leave your child alone while he or she chews on the washcloth.
  • Rub his or her gums. Gently rub his or her gums with a clean finger, cool spoon, or wet gauze.
  • Give him or her cold liquids or foods. Give your child cold (not frozen) juice to decrease pain. Cold fruit (such as a banana) or a cold vegetable (such as a peeled cucumber) are also good choices. Do not give your child hard foods, such as carrots, because he or she can choke.
  • Give him or her acetaminophen as directed. This medicine decreases your child's pain and lowers a fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child, and how often to give it.

What are some things I should not do?

  • Do not dip a pacifier or teething ring in sugar or honey.
  • Do not rub alcohol on your child's gums.
  • Do not use fluid-filled teething rings. The fluid may leak out of the ring.
  • Do not use teething gel unless directed by your child's healthcare provider.
  • Do not use frozen foods, liquids, or teething devices.
  • Do not tie a teething ring around your child's neck. The tie may strangle him or her.
  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle.

How should I care for my child's teeth as they come in?

  • Schedule your child's first dental appointment. This should occur after your child's teeth begin to come in and before his or her first birthday.
  • Clean your child's teeth using a child-sized, soft bristle toothbrush and water. Clean his or her teeth twice each day. Begin adding a small amount of fluoride toothpaste to the toothbrush when your child is 2 years old. Teach your child to brush correctly. Do not let your child chew on the toothbrush or eat the toothpaste.
  • Do not let your child drink from a bottle while lying down or going to sleep. This can cause tooth decay and increase your child's risk of an ear infection.
  • Do not let your child walk around with his or her bottle. This can cause a tooth injury if your child falls. Do not let him or her drink from the bottle or breast for longer than a regular mealtime. This can lead to tooth decay.
  • Do not give your child fruit juice until he or she is 6 months or older. Children younger than 6 years should drink no more than ½ cup to ⅔ cup each day. Too much juice can cause diarrhea, upset stomach, and tooth decay. Give your child juice from a cup, not a bottle. Buy 100% fruit juice that is pasteurized.

When should I call my child's pediatrician?

  • Your child has a fever higher than 100.4°F (38°C).
  • Your child has nausea or diarrhea, or he or she is vomiting.
  • Your child continues to act fussy and irritable after his or her teeth have come in.
  • Your child's gum is red, swollen, and draining pus where the tooth is coming in.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.