Teething is one of those instances where there are a number of unexpected, and seemingly unconnected, symptoms. So if your normally sunny baby is suddenly difficult to soothe, expert family GP Dr Philippa Kaye talks through the signs that baby teeth may be making an appearance…
7 signs and symptoms your baby is teething…
1. Your baby’s grizzly
Don’t be surprised if your baby is fussy or cranky now that teeth are on the way. “A lot of babies will be grizzly and miserable,” says Dr Philippa.
“They might be whiny or clingier than usual when a tooth starts to break through. It’s very normal for those sore gums to make them feel irritable.”
2. Your baby’s waking at night (more than usual, or when they didn’t before)
It’s common for teething babies to have difficulty sleeping both at night and nap time. “They might wake up often,” Dr Philippa says.
“They are in pain and just as toothache might keep you awake, it stops them getting a good night’s sleep too.”
And obviously a bad night can sometimes mean crankiness during the day, unfortunately, so be prepared for that too…
3. Your baby’s chewing anything in sight
“All babies chew a lot,” Dr Philippa says. “And while all babies might chew their hands or a toy, you may notice they are doing it a lot more than usual and there will be lots and lots of drool.
“Their clothes may be soaked through with it. It’s a clear sign of swollen or painful gums.”
4. Your baby’s yanking their ears
Another telltale sign that babies are teething is when they start to yank or pull on their ears.
“You get referred pain from the jaw in your ear,” Dr Philippa explains.
“Often, adults will complain of ear pain when it’s actually toothache. Babies make the same mistake.”
5. Your baby has red cheeks or a rash
Teething babies may suffer with red cheeks or a rash around the mouth, chin and chest.
“It’s caused by excessive drooling,” explains Dr Philippa. “It’s important to keep an eye on the baby and to gently wipe any drool away.
” Take care not to wipe too often or too fiercely though, as this can also irritate the skin.”
6. Your baby’s lost their appetite
“Babies may lose their appetite or refuse to eat and drink because their mouth hurts,” Dr Philippa advises.
“A good tip is to cut thin slices of banana and freeze them. They can gnaw on these and the cooling will be refreshing for their gums, as well as getting a bit of food into them.”
7. Your baby has runny poo
“Lots of parents will say that they see a bit of loose poo when their babies are teething,” Dr Philippa reveals. “This isn’t something described in text books but lots of parents agree it is linked with teething.”
Writing on our forum, mum mrs_e says: “I’ve had bad nappies again today, and he’s eating better too so despite being a bit clingy every now and then, there can’t be much wrong with him. The nappies MUST be down to teething.”
BUT a fever (over 38C) is NOT a sign of teething
“A lot of parents will say their babies seem hot, but teething does not cause a fever over 38C,” Dr Philippa says.
Yes, teething might cause a slightly raised temperature, but not a fever. Philippa: “Paediatricians agree…if your baby has a fever, there is likely to be something else going on.
“If you have concerns, you should see a GP.”
When do the symptoms of teething start?
“A tooth can appear from as early as 3 or 4 months,” confirms Dr Kaye. “Lots of parents may notice signs of teething earlier as the teeth start to move behind the gums and that’s very normal.
“In some cases, teeth appear much later and that is absolutely nothing to worry about. If your baby doesn’t have any teeth until they turn 1, that’s fine too. If they hit 18 months and don’t have any, that’s when I’d recommend seeing a dentist.”
It’s common to see signs of discomfort from teething and, for many parents, it’s a difficult time as they try to cope with grizzly babies who won’t eat and wake up in the night.
One parent on our forum, jen_ant_oscar, asked: “Hope this doesn’t sound stupid but can a baby start teething as early as 7 weeks? Oscar’s gums are really white and feel really hard and he’s been really dribbly over the last few days.” The answer is yes. Teeth can appear earlier than 3 months. Indeed some babies have even been born with teeth.
Can you give pain relief to a teething baby?
Yes, as long as your baby is old enough. Luckily, there are several ways that parents can ease the pain of teething: pain relief is one way and you shouldn’t feel concerned about giving pain relief when required.
“A lot of people think they shouldn’t be giving a baby paracetamol or ibuprofen if the baby doesn’t have a temperature,” Dr Philippa explains.
“But if they are in pain, you should give it. If you had a headache, you’d take a painkiller. It’s fine for your baby to have some too.”
Teething gels can help soothe teething pain but make sure you try teething rings first. And Dr Philippa gives this reminder about teething/soothing gels: “Adult versions include an ingredient which is not safe for children so don’t use whatever you have left over in your cupboard from your own toothache – buy a special one for children instead.”
About our expert, Dr Philippa Kaye
Dr Philippa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. Dr Philippa has also written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.