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Primary Teeth  
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Definition  

Teething begins before a child's first tooth breaks through the gums. It is a natural process, but causes sore gums. Teething can make your child uncomfortable and cranky. Teething lasts from 6 months to 3 years.

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Causes  

The first teeth start to come in when your baby is 6-12 months old. The first teeth are most often the two bottom front teeth. Other teeth will quickly follow. The pressure on the gums can make them swollen and tender.

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Risk Factors  

Teething is a natural process. No factors increase the chance of teething.

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Symptoms  

Many babies do not experience any problems or pain. When symptoms do occur, they generally last for several days before and a few days after the tooth comes through the gums.

Symptoms include:

  • Drooling
  • Wanting to chew on fingers or hard materials
  • Rubbing the gums or ears
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Increased sucking
  • Reduced interest in solid foods
  • Slight rise in body temperature
  • Swollen gums
  • Sensitive gums
  • Rash on face, resulting from drooling

If the baby is feverish and acts sick or very upset, seek medical care. Something else may be causing the symptoms.

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Diagnosis  

A doctor will diagnose teething by the baby's age, symptoms, and appearance of the gums. A teething baby's gums appear swollen and are tender. Sometimes small, white spots appear on the gums just before a tooth comes through. There may be some bruising or bleeding.

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Treatment  

Most children will only need basic comfort measures. Your doctor may recommend pain-numbing gels and medications, but they are rarely needed.

Bring your child to a dentist when the first tooth comes in. Make sure to visit the dentist by one year of age. The dentist will perform an exam. You will be shown how to care for your child's teeth.