A baby’s first tooth is a momentous occasion, but it doesn’t always come easily. As parents, we’ve heard MANY stories over the years—including fussy babies, sleepless nights and the odd home remedy. We’ve compiled the basics of teething for  expecting or new parents, but be sure to talk to your pediatrician if you have specific questions.

When Does Teething Begin?

Typically, babies will develop their first tooth between the age of four and seven months—sometimes earlier, sometimes as late as a year or older. Because tooth buds form in the gums in the womb, in rare cases, babies have been born with their first tooth. This expansive range can be intimidating, which is why it is good to be prepared.

What Should I Expect?

Symptoms will vary, but the most common signs of teething include:

  • Drooling: As the tooth prepares to break through the gum, your baby will probably salivate more than normal, and this can sometimes cause facial rash.
  • Swelling and sensitivity: Tenderness can accompany drooling as the tooth breaks through. For some babies the process appears quite painful, though others show no sign of discomfort at all.
  • Fussiness and irritability: If your baby is experiencing pain, he or she may also be fussy, may refuse food and might not sleep as well.
  • Biting: Your little one may be even more likely than usual to bit or chew on random objects to work a new tooth through the surface.

If your baby experiences any other symptoms while teething (temperature of 100.4 or above, vomiting or diarrhea), you should talk to your pediatrician. They’re probably not related to teething and may signal another medical condition requiring treatment.

What Can I Do?

Teething remedies are an industry of their own in the baby product world—and every doula, pediatrician and mommy blogger has one they swear by. As with everything else, effectiveness will vary. These are some of the more tried-and-true methods, though be sure to consult your pediatrician before trying medication or a less common method.

  • Natural Wooden Toys: Many teething babies will bite whatever they can get their hands on. Providing them with a natural (and clean!) wooden toy will make fulfilling this instinct easier and safer for them. Look for toys with soft edges and a natural varnish—like beeswax—rather than paint, which can chip and be swallowed.
  • Finger Massage: With a clean finger, rub your baby’s gums for a couple of minutes. Some babies will resist at first, but most like the pressure—and squeaking noise your finger makes.
  • Rubber: Babies love the smell and taste of natural rubber, which is why rubber teething rings are so common in baby stores.
  • Painkillers: Consult with your pediatrician if these simple, natural remedies don’t work. He or she may recommend over-the-counter painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Many don’t recommend topical pain relievers, because a teething baby drools so much they are quickly washed away.

We at Women’s Healthcare Associates love healthy babies and happy moms. Teething can be a difficult time for both, but remember that you’re not alone—and that teething doesn’t last forever. Check out HealthyChildren, a site sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatricians – for information on kids of all ages.