Teething: Tips for soothing sore gums

Is your teething baby keeping you up at night? Understand how to soothe sore gums and care for your baby's new teeth. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Drooling, crankiness and tears can make teething an ordeal for parents and babies alike. Here's help easing the pain — for both of you.

What's typical?

Although timing varies widely, babies often begin teething by about age 6 months. The two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to appear, followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors).

Classic signs and symptoms of teething include:

  • Drooling
  • Chewing on solid objects
  • Irritability or crankiness
  • Sore or tender gums

Many parents suspect that teething causes fever and diarrhea, but researchers say this isn't true. Teething can cause signs and symptoms in the mouth and gums — but not elsewhere in the body.

What's the best way to soothe sore gums?

If your teething baby seems uncomfortable, consider these simple tips:

  • Rub your baby's gums. Use a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to massage your baby's gums. The pressure can ease your baby's discomfort.
  • Offer a teething ring. Try one made of firm rubber. The liquid-filled variety might break under the pressure of your baby's chewing. If a bottle seems to do the trick, fill it with water. Prolonged contact with sugar from formula, milk or juice contributes to tooth decay.
  • Keep it cool. A cold washcloth or chilled teething ring can be soothing on a baby's gums. Don't give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold can be harmful.
  • Try hard foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might offer something edible for gnawing — such as a peeled and chilled cucumber or carrot. Keep a close eye on your baby, however. Any pieces that break off might pose a choking hazard.
  • Dry the drool. Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby's chin.
  • Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is especially cranky, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) might help. Avoid teething medications that contain the pain reliever benzocaine. Benzocaine products have been associated with methemoglobinemia — a rare but serious condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Apr. 11, 2014 See more In-depth