A child's first tooth usually appears by 6 months of age, and a complete set of 20 primary or first teeth usually develops by age 3. Before a tooth appears, the child may cry, be irritable, and sleep and eat poorly. The child may drool, have red and tender gums, and chew constantly on food and objects during tooth eruption. During teething, the child may have a mildly elevated temperature (below 100° F or below 38° C). Children who have higher temperatures and those who are especially fussy should be evaluated by a doctor because these symptoms are not due to teething.
Teething infants get some relief from chewing on hard, cold objects, such as firm rubber teething rings. Massaging the child's gums with or without ice may help. Teething gels may provide relief for a few minutes. Parents should avoid the use of lidocaine gels. If a child is extremely uncomfortable, acetaminophen or ibuprofen is usually effective for pain.
Last full review/revision February 2009 by Elizabeth J. Palumbo, MD