Teething and Drool

Everything You Need to Know About Teething and Drool

Both teething and drooling are normal baby milestones, but both can cause confusion for parents. You may be wondering – when do babies start teething? What are the signs and symptoms of teething? Why do babies drool? In this blog post, we’ll lay out what to expect with teething and drool.

When do babies start teething?

On average, babies get their first tooth between 4-7 months old. However, some babies are born with their first tooth already visible [a rare condition called natal teeth], while others don’t get their first tooth until after their first birthday.

The typical order that primary teeth emerge is:

  • Bottom front teeth [central incisors]: ~ 6-10 months
  • Top front teeth: ~ 8-12 months
  • Along the sides [lateral incisors]: ~ 10-16 months
  • First molars: ~ 13-19 months
  • Canine teeth: ~ 16-22 months
  • Second molars: ~ 20-30 months

Interestingly, the order in which your children’s first teeth emerge is likely to be the order in which they lose their baby teeth in a few years. Children typically lose their first tooth by age 5-7 years.

Signs and Symptoms of Teething

As those new teeth start pushing through the gums, infants often experience some degree of discomfort and fussiness. Some babies show several signs of teething, while others show hardly any besides a brand new teeth.

Common signs that a baby is teething include:

  • Drooling [more than usual]
  • Chewing on fingers, toys, or other objects
  • Irritability or fussiness
  • Swollen, tender gums
  • Disrupted sleep or more frequent night wakings
  • Slight rash around mouth

Experts are reluctant to suggest that teething can cause a fever, however many parents do report a slight low grade fever. Some suggest that this is due to an increased risk of contracting a virus [like the common cold] due to increased chewing on objects. If your baby has a fever, contact your pediatrician – don’t assume it’s simply due to teething.

Why Do Babies Drool So Much When Teething?

Babies drool for several reasons, including underdeveloped swallowing muscles, developing digestive systems, and mouth exploration – simply exploring the worlds with their mouths stimulates saliva production! However, teething is another reason that can increase drooling in babies. This is because increased saliva production helps soothe tender gums as new teeth emerge. Teething itself stimulates the salivary glands to produce more saliva to help lubricate the mouth and throat as babies chew on objects.

While drooling is very common and normal in babies under 2 years old as they develop muscle control, persistent excessive drooling after 18-24 months may warrant evaluation by a pediatrician to rule out any medical causes.

What is Drool Rash?

Drool rash is a type of contact dermatitis [skin irritation] caused by excessive drooling. It typically appears as red, dry, and irritated skin with small bumps around the mouth, chin, cheeks, or neck folds where drool accumulates. Drool rash is common during teething, but it can occur anytime due to normal salivary gland development.

The main cause of drool rash is prolonged exposure of a baby’s delicate skin to saliva. While some drooling is normal as babies develop their swallowing abilities, excessive drool that is allowed to sit on the skin for extended periods can lead to irritation and rash. Other risk factors are using pacifiers or teething toys that smear drool on the skin, and messy eating [once starting solid foods].

Drool rash is differentiated from other skin rashes such as eczema by being confined to drool-exposed areas and lack of oozing or cracked skin. It’s treated by frequently [but gently!] wiping away drool, using a fragrance-free moisture barrier [like petroleum jelly], avoiding irritants, and generally keeping skin clean and dry.

Teething Tips for New Parents

If you baby is teething and uncomfortable, there are several ways you can help ease their discomfort:

  • Massage sore gums: Use a clean finger or moistened gauze pad to gently rub and massage baby’s gums to relieve pressure and pain.
  • Chill teething toys: Give your baby a chilled [not frozen] teething ring or washcloth to gnaw on.
  • Try frozen treats: Offer frozen breastmilk in a mesh feeder. For babies over 6 months, you can offer frozen fruit purees or yogurt in a mesh feeder as well.
  • Use over-the-counter medication: If your baby seems very uncomfortable, ask your pediatrician about giving an appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to alleviate pain.

Caring for New Teeth

Once that first tooth emerges, it’s time to start a brushing! Use a soft infant toothbrush and water [no toothpaste yet] to gently clean teeth and gums daily. Remember to schedule your baby’s first dental visit – The American Dental Association recommends taking your baby for their first dentist appointment by their 1st birthday.

Teething can be an uncomfortable phase, but staying patient and trying different remedies can help soothe your baby’s discomfort. Teething is a temporary phase, but those little teeth are worth celebrating! With some patience and remedies for discomfort, both you and your baby will get through this milestone.