Teething usually starts some time between 4 and 12 months old. Teething lasts until toddler molars come in some time around 3 years old, though it slows down a little in later years. There are many symptoms that often go along with teething, but, aside from reddened or swollen gums, none of these symptoms are specific enough to teething that they can really be used to tell when teething is happening, since they can all be caused by other things, and all happen fairly commonly even outside of teething. These symptoms include:
Common belief says that teething can cause fever and diarrhea, but according to the Mayo Clinic, research doesn’t support this belief. Another common problem surrounding teething is that symptoms that are actually signs of illness are sometimes dismissed as just teething until an illness appears more fully.
The main effect teething has on sleep is just that teething pain can make babies fussier, and give them a harder time falling asleep, especially since soothing techniques like teethers, or cool washcloths, that babies might depend on to soothe teething pain during the day can’t be used during sleep.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends soothing babies who are fussy during teething to sleep using their normal bedtime routines. However, babies who are experiencing teething pain sometimes have trouble falling or staying asleep with a normal routine.
The usual ways of soothing sore gums, like cool washcloths or soothers, pressure, and other options to gnaw on, don’t work for sleep. It can be tempting to apply a topical numbing gel to the gums, which can numb them long enough for a baby to fall asleep, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against it, since the gel is then swallowed, which can numb the throat, which can be dangerous. Homeopathic teething gels are also not recommended, and can be dangerous.
If your little one's healthcare provider approves it, offering an over-the-counter pain reliever can be an option for teething pain that your baby just can’t sleep through. Acetaminophen-based pain relievers like Tylenol are generally agreed to be safe for children 4 months old and older when approved by a doctor. Ibuprofen-based medications like Advil and Motrin are approved for ages 6 months and older, although these should be avoided if your baby is not feeding well or not making wet diapers. For either one, it’s important to follow doctor-approved dosing instructions carefully.
If you’re using over-the-counter medications to treat teething pain, you may need to give your child a second dose part-way through the night, depending on the medication and the severity of the pain. Ibuprofen-based medications have a longer duration of pain relief compared to Acetaminophen-based medications. It is important not to give these medicines more frequently than indicated by your doctor and noted on the medication’s instructions, as it can lead to a medication overdose.
Teething pain can sound like a never-ending ordeal, if only because it’s so spread out, but studies have found that teething pain really only makes itself known for a few days before and a few days after each tooth, and your baby doesn’t have that many teeth coming in, so there should be plenty of time to brace yourself between teething episodes.