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Teething ˈtē-t͟hiŋ

By Elizabeth J. Palumbo, MD, Private Practice, The Pediatric Group, Fairfax, VA

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 years. Before a tooth appears, the child may cry, be fussy, and sleep and eat poorly. The child may drool, have red and tender gums, and chew constantly on food and objects during tooth eruption. Teething does not cause fever (temperature above 100° F or 38° C). Children who have fever or who are especially fussy should be evaluated by a doctor because these symptoms are not due to teething.

Did You Know...

  • Despite popular belief, teething does not cause fever.

Teething infants get some relief from chewing on hard or cold objects, such as firm rubber or gel-containing teething rings. Massaging the child's gums with or without ice also may help. If a child is extremely uncomfortable, acetaminophen or ibuprofen is usually helpful. Teething gels are not recommended because they are not any more effective than other measures and some contain a potentially dangerous substance, benzocaine. Benzocaine can rarely cause a serious condition called methemoglobinemia, which affects the ability of the blood to carry oxygen.

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