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Saturday, January 21, 2012


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Mine has been similar. Leo definitely got pretty screamy for the 24 hours surrounding when his first tooth cut. His gums were very swollen and tender, then the tooth popped through the next day and he was still a bit fussy until the second cut the next day. I can't remember a lot with the girls ... just that they'd get fussy pretty much for a day or so before the tooth popped through. Of course, having reflux babies with various other digestive issues, I'm always quick to blame THAT before I blame teeth for anything, haha.

Things I've noticed with teething: drooling and chomping on things while also being fussier than usual (but not usually the same day a tooth comes in), and "teething diapers"- you know those runny poops from all that extra saliva that causes a diaper rash (not always but often). I've always though that teeth "move around" and bother them but don't necessarily come through the gums in a timely fashion in relation to the drooling.

As far as sleep interruptions, I mostly think that's developmental. However, when in doubt, we dose up our kids on motrin (unless they're under 6 mos, then we use tylenol) JUST IN CASE, especially if they wake at night. We figure it can't hurt.

As for the teething necklaces that started this whole convo... they *seem* to cut down on the frantic chewing on my fist (or her own fist), but who knows. I like that if they actually DO help, it's all natural, and that they wear them all the time (except for sleeping), so I don't have to worry about dosing out some other kind of pain killer...

This WAS way easier than discussing via twitter, so thanks Arwen! xo

Oh, and ALSO, I think it's helpful as a parent, to have an EXPLANATION for odd/off/grumpy behavior in kids, so I think it's soothing to say to myself "well, it's probably just teeth." It's more unsettling to NOT be able to explain it, ya know? So even with this new knowledge (I believe you're probably right), I'll probably still tell myself "Eh, it's probably teeth."

I haven't paid too much attention, except to the fact that most "teething symptoms" don't seem to relate to teething. Drooling, gnawing on everything- happens for months sometimes before teeth show up.

I do sometimes give tylenol for fussiness that I attribute to teething and it seems to help, but who's to say the fussiness isn't related to some other discomfort that the tylenol helps. (Or maybe it only helps in my head.)

Also, often with Kalena I would notice she had a new tooth after she had left bloody chewing marks on a pillow or something else. So even though teething was causing her gums to bleed, she wasn't extra fussy.

We haven't noticed Callum showing any signs of teething. Every now and then one of his cheeks randomly turns red and we wonder if he's teething, but so far there's been no correlation. He also only has four teeth, though. He got his first two at six months but he's only gotten two more since, and I see no signs of any others coming in. But then, I didn't notice his top teeth until they'd actually broken through, either. But, Callum is such a mellow baby in general that I hesitate to generalize his behavior to mean that teething doesn't exist. He also didn't change his behavior at all when he had a massive double ear infection. So I'm not sure how helpful he is as a data point.

I remember being shocked when Hannah cut her first tooth. It seemed to come out of nowhere. Her behavior didn't change before that, nor has it changed for her subsequent teeth. All her grandparents love to blame any fussiness she has on teething, and not on them overstimulating her, but really, after a solid meal and nap, she's back to her normal behavior.

Oh, that's so sensible!

I completely agree with you!

When babies are about 3 months old and begin drooling, a lot of parents attribute it to teething. However, I know ZERO 3-month-olds with teeth! That's just when their drooling begins, which supports the developmental milestone theory.

I've mothered four children and only one time did I have a sleepless night that may due to teething, and that was when my oldest cut a couple of first-year molars. Incidentally, she was also sick, so who really knows.

Zuzu has exhibited basically no teething symptoms, with the possible exception of when her molars came in. But I'm kind of with you (without even thinking much about it, I guess) in that teething is about the last thing I attribute her behavior to.

This is so interesting, Arwen. One of my favourite baby-book ladies, Robin Barker, has this exact same opinion. She says teething produces nothing but - teeth. She has written a couple of very popular baby books here in Australia and her point of view is that if your child is very fussy, don't just put it down to teeth because often something more serious is passed over for this.

I have seemed to notice more fussiness with teeth and most mothers do call tricky times teething, but I am interested to learn if there is in fact any correlation. I clearly remember wisdom teeth hurting like crazy so Im not willing to completely discount the concept that teething is painful.


That sort of makes sense. I remember getting my adult teeth, and other than the pain of the baby teeth coming out (which babies wouldn't experience getting their first teeth) I don't remember any pain related to my adult teeth coming in. At all. Not a bit. Once the baby tooth was out, pain was gone.

So why would there be substantial pain when babies get their first teeth?

It never occurred to me before now. I LOVE SCIENCE!

I'm with you on that one. People are CONSTANTLY telling me Lucy's teething, and I respond that I thought so too when her sister was her age, but that she didn't until 8 months. I know each kid is different, but my entire family is full of late teethers. This doesn't stop them from gnawing their hands off and drooling all over the place at 4 months.

I think teething affects each baby differently. Margaret never seemed to have teething pain - getting teeth was unrelated to fusiness/drooling/sleep interruptions. Paul, however, really seems like his gums hurt. Chewing on teething rings helps a LOT, as does Tylenol, so I think there's got to be *something* going on with his gums. Also, I've always thought teething pain doesn't necessarily correlate to when the teeth break though - just when they're moving through the gums.

The point about it not hurting to have adult teeth come in is really interesting, though. I'd never thought of that.

Also, re: Tylenol - it seems to help immediately, leading me to think it's more the sugar that calms him as opposed to the medicine (there's sugar in Tylenol suspension, right?) I compare it to newborns being given sugar water during heel sticks/etc in the nursery (though our hospital thankfully doesn't do that because it might interfere with breastfeeding). He also sleeps longer after Tylenol, though, so I do think the medicine helps some. It's just not the ONLY thing that helps.

My oldest fussed a lot when teething. Many sleepless nights followed by a new tooth. He even complained of pain as a child getting molars. Child #2 never complained. We would just notice a new tooth. She did gnaw on things at 4 months but she also got her 1st tooth then.She is also a super easy child when sick. Child #3 was colicy so she was always crying, teeth or no. But now she is easy going. Child #4 somehow survied infancy while we where going through a major remodel. That year is a blur. I think teething discomfort is real but different personalities respond to it differently. I remember my 12 year molars coming in. Not really painful but tender. The other stuff like drooling, putting things in the month, etc. are probably developmental.

My son had no fussiness, sleep disruptions, etc with teething. However, he did have some increased nasal drainage (definitely not a cold) and diarrhea related to the increased mucous. This occurred right before certain teeth broke through. With others, there were no symptoms at all. That being said, I know people who have said that their babies gums were visibly red, swollen and inflamed with teething and consequently were fussy for obvious reasons. I don't think a doctor or anyone else should dismiss this type of observation by a parent.

I could definitely get on board with this theory. I notice that teething falls into the hindsight category too often. That is, we theorize the baby is teething; if a tooth appears, see, we were right! If not, we either forget about our theory being proved wrong, or we think the tooth that appears two weeks later was the culprit after all.

Another thing I just thought of is that children continue to get new teeth after toddlerhood, but they don't complain that their mouths hurt. Edward and Elizabeth are getting their 6-year molars and also their two top front and two bottom front teeth, and they don't feel anything at all as those suckers cut through---even though right now one of Edward's top gums is red and swollen-looking. This is the most persuasive evidence for me.

Annnnnnd perhaps I should read the comments before coming out with my Brilliant Ideas!

I 100% agree with you. My daughter did not get teeth until she was 14 months old. From 4 months to about a year every time she was fussy people told me, "Oh, she must be teething. Poor thing." The same thing is happening with my twins. They go through fussy periods, they go for days just wanting to be held, yet they are 10 months old and have no teeth. I definitely think that MOST of babies' fussiness that is attributed to teething is really just growth spurts, hitting milestones, development, or other illnesses. It is just a coincidence that most babies get teeth while these things are going on.

I dunno...I think it's possible that teething could cause more pain before the actual cutting of the tooth than when it actually cuts. I mean, I know one of my wisdom teeth ached on and off sometimes a day or two at a time for several months before cutting. I just figured that's what it's like for babies.

I found that for the first two years of her life, Elizabeth would run a fever, I would shriek out "it's happened! She finally got sick!" and the next morning she would have a new tooth. She never ran a fever without getting a tooth the next day until she actually got sick for real on the day of her two year well visit. We lived a really sheltered life then though. Matt worked from home and we had just moved there so we didn't have any friends and literally never were in contact with any of kids and babies and barely any adults. So it was kind of like a nice little illness study. I do believe that the fevers were caused by the teeth though, the correlation was just too strong for us, and it was something I never expected- I always expected her to be actually sick, so it wasn't a confirmation bias.

I do agree that there are lots of things that are probably blamed on teething that aren't caused by teething. But I don't think teething doesn't cause anything either. We'd also have times where Elizabeth would cry and cry until we put that numbing stuff on her gums and she obviously felt a lot better.

I think cutting teeth does cause pain in some babies, because I *do* remember my adult molars hurting like heck when they were coming in. I think the adult teeth that replace baby teeth don't hurt because the baby tooth already broke through the gums, and that's what hurts. Also, I know kids who got their two-year molars when they were old enough to say, "My mouth hurts!" So it can hurt.

That said, I absolutely 100% agree that things get blamed on teething way too often. It drives me CRAZY when people say, "Oh look at that drooling baby! Oh, and look, the baby is trying to chew on things! That baby is obviously teething." And the baby continues to drool and chew on things for weeks and weeks and then a tooth comes in, and the people say, "See? Told you."

Babies drool. Babies chew on things. Constantly. It is not definitive proof of teething. But your careful data observation has convinced me that there is probably even less correlation between teething and fussiness that I had thought. It just depends on the baby - JUST LIKE EVERYTHING. :)

I think it definitely CAN hurt, as Isla is cutting her last 2-year molar right now and has been complaining of pain, and every time she's complained, her gums have been swollen there, but the tooth hasn't poked through yet. Violet is getting her first 6-year molar, and she complained a couple of weeks ago about it being sore, but then she just noticed the other day that it JUST cut without causing pain. Anyway, that's all to say WHO THE HECK KNOWS. Probably sometimes they hurt and sometimes they don't and sometimes it's the tooth moving and sometimes it's the gums swelling and sometimes it's the cutting.

I don't think we can dismiss the biting/drooling behavior as having nothing to do with teething, because I think we get that instinct to bite WAY before the teeth break through. I can remember even cutting my wisdom teeth that I really wanted the pressure on my gums in the back. I liked jawbreakers for that reason. (What, you shouldn't cut teeth with sugar? SHOOT.) Three of mine never cut before getting pulled, but whatever was going on in my gums/brain made me want to bite bite bite.

With my last child, I noticed he would be extremely fussy before a developmental milestone (pre-crawling produced the worst fussiness). Of course, those were the times he was also getting teeth but I guess my "evidence" that it was the developmental stuff that bugged him most was that as soon as he conquered the milestone, the fussing got better.

I find it interesting that in some old texts I was looking at, there were several infants whose cause of death was listed as teething. I just googled it and at times in the 1800s, five percent of babies died of "teething"! Probably the same logic was used as you are talking about here. There was no obvious cause of illness, but the baby was getting/just got teeth and thus, that was thought to be the problem. It is chilling to think what it must have been like to be a mother in those days.

Hmm, at Christmas my daughter went crazy clingy. I thought she was going to wean but all of the sudden she was nursing like crazy. I attributed it to the long drive to see relatives, staying in so many different places, and a cold she had. Oh, and she was starting to walk. So there were plenty of reasons for the behaviour. Then I noticed one of her eye teeth was coming in. I guessed it was just one more thing to add to the mix. The cold went away, we got settled into my MIL's house for a few days, she stayed at the same semi-walking state and she stayed clingy. But then BAM! She was better one afternoon. Literally, the morning was awful, the afternoon she was herself. I put my finger in her mouth and sure enough, there was a tooth. So I do think teething caused it.

I think it really depends on the kid and the teeth. I've noticed the first 8 were a lot easier. Molars can be rough, and for both my girls the eye teeth were brutal. I also wonder if it's harder when they're younger. My second cut her first tooth right after she turned 4 months (and I have a friend with a baby who just got his first tooth at 2 months so early teethers do happen!) and has just now finished getting her eye teeth right as she turned 16 months. Maybe the littler they are the harder it is to cope? My older daughter got her first tooth at 6 months right on schedule and except for her eye teeth she didn't have as hard of a time.

Sounds like The Wonder Weeks, as discussed at Ask Moxie. My older son hit those weeks like clockwork. The younger one, not so much. I think it's a little of both and kid-dependent.

As for the amber necklaces, I am deeply skeptical. My husband's grandparents are from Lithuania, where everything is covered in amber. I asked his grandmas about these things and they had never heard of them. With as much amber as these two women wear, they would never be in pain if the claims were true.

With both kids, I find that the bulk of their fussiness is tied to developmental spurts of some sort. That said, both of mine have had a few telltale signs of teething right around the time a tooth popped. The worst is the infamous teething poop.

Veronica is the SLOWEST.TEETHER.EVER. She'll be 17 months old Tuesday and she cut her 7th tooth today. But for the past 2 days -- awful, burning poops. The only time she ever gets this is prior to a tooth. Teddy was like that, too.

Speaking of Teddy, the only time he seemed to be in pain was when he was cutting molars. With his one-year molars, his fingers were constantly in his mouth and his gums were raw and bloody. With his two-year molars, he told us that his mouth was sore and that he wanted a 'dose' of medicine.

So, I believe that there are symptoms related to the cutting of teeth that cause discomfort. But I totally agree that the fussiness we call teething is something else entirely.

Oh man, I looove this topic. I have an Only Child, so not a lot of evidence to work with, but with him, every tooth has been, "Whaaaat? You have a new tooth?" I just looked in his mouth and found several several six-year (yes YEAR) molars that are a COMPLETE surprise. As a baby/toddler/preschooler he was always drooly, but---no fussiness or emotional issues related specifically to teething, I can tell you that for sure.

P.S. I should add that I'm a hyper-sensitive, naturally VIGILANT person, in terms of personality. No way even minor out-of-the-ordinary symptoms would get past me.

I remember molars coming in and how itchy/pressured my gums felt. My child is almost 10 and has just started losing her baby molars, so I am going to conduct a study and start asking her how it feels to her as the new ones come in. With just one child, the sample size is low, but the statistical significance is high to me! LOL

I just always felt like how could teething not be unpleasant for some kids? I think the more sensitive of them would fuss more over discomfort. I too felt like Tylenol helped a lot, but I never made the sugar connection like the posters upstream. Hmmm. Food for thought. But meds are typically dispensed with attention and TLC, and maybe that is soothing in its own right.

What Maureen said, including the part about remembering how it hurt when my own molars came in.

Maybe Gabe is terrible with pain, but both his first teeth and his first molars DESTROYED his sleep.

It was awful.

We nearly died.

Obviously I can't really comment on having children and the effects of teething but your post and the attribution error with regard to teething remind me of this article about children, sugar and the associated behavior

First kid=early teether, very obvious correlation between teeth and pain (ie, up all night screaming bloody murder from a usually excellent sleeper, followed by two new teeth in the morning, or extraordinary fussiness cured by a dose of Tylenol that wore off exactly three hours later--and Tylenol obviously wouldn't have worked for stomach pain, run of the mill fussiness etc--followed by teeth). This is still in line w her personality though--she is not very stoic to say the least!

Second kid=eh. Teeth are coming in a lot more slowly and certainly don't seem to bother her to the same degee. But she is a fussy kid anyway and not the rock-solid sleeper her sister was/is, so it's hard to tell. In her case I would find those studies compelling!

Both kids got ear infections, though the symptoms were pretty obvious (fever following a cold) so I don't think I would confuse that w teeth but could be!

I think the teething thing is way overplayed, mostly by people who want to offer something. "Oh! It's a baby! It's probably teething!! Or needs a hat!" Not malicious, but just wanting to be helpful.
However, I will say that for some of my kids, tooth-growing was difficult. For others, it was no big deal.
For me, at least, the takeaway here is that I'll never figure a one of them out.

Yes! This! I've only learned this with my fourth baby. He got his first tooth with no fanfare, or hardly any at all. The second one followed, and I haven't noticed any sleeping problems at all. If anything, he sleeps *better* right before a tooth pops in. Maybe he's figured out that if he's sleeping, he can't feel the pain if there is any.

I always thought my oldest had a hard time teething; he got teeth starting at four months, and he was so hard to put down for sleep--had to be rocked until he was completely unconscious, or he wouldn't sleep. We thought it was teeth, since the teeth were coming in fast and furious, so we used the teething tablets a lot. Then with my second, he didn't get teeth until he was seven months old, and I thought his refusal to sleep was due to those. Teething tablets, which had worked miracles with my oldest (i thought) didn't work. We tried Tylenol. Ugh. Turned out he was working on learning to go to sleep on his own, and didn't want me to rock or walk him down to sleep.

I don't remember teething issues with my third. We had other medical issues that took priority, and teeth were really secondary.

I do seem to remember that for all the kids, molars were the WORST. Especially the second year molars. We did use the Tylenol and Motrin a lot then. It wasn't so much sleep as their crankiness during the day that killed me.

Oh, and I am of the opinion that the drool is just because the baby doesn't know how to swallow/contain his or her drool. You don't see a lot of two year olds getting their molars and drooling like bulldogs. Once my babies started eating finger foods and chewing and swallowing well, the drooling went away, but they were still getting teeth.

I think I agree in general. With incisors and canines there doesn't seem to be a clear connection between fussiness and teething. I think it is easier to attribute inexplicable fussiness to teething because it allows you to stop worrying at why the baby won't stop crying and relieves some of the feelings of helplessness.

But I'm not convinced about molars. Those do seem to cause pain. Or at least I have to tell myself that because otherwise there is no way to explain the intense screaming that Ben did. I kept taking Ben to the doctor thinking he must have another ear infection because his sleeping was so bad and he was clearly experiencing extreme physical discomfort that was relieved by pain medication. And since the two year molars fully erupted it has dropped off and he is a much pleasanter person. The same series of symptoms happened with both the one year and two year molars so I definitely see a pattern of several months of pain before the teeth come out.

I will be willing o concede that for some kids it seems much worse than others. Ben's teething is astronomically worse than either of the girls'.

Drooling at the three to four month mark is completely unrelated to teething in my experience. My babies have always drooled and chewed on things for months before teeth appeared and I've learned to just laugh at all the suggestions that the baby is teething when he hits that stage.

@KatrinaRavioli: You were very lucky then! I lost all of my baby molars in the span of a week, and when my adult ones started coming in, all at once, I was pretty unhappy. But way worse than that was when my wisdom teeth started coming in. Before the dentist finally went in and pulled them, they would move upwards, start cutting the gums, and then recede, back and forth and back and forth, and I remember telling my mom once "No wonder babies cry when they teethe, this HURTS!"

I, too, remember my wisdom teeth coming in and they hurt like crazy!

My son is also a late teeth-er. And yes, he did cut his teeth for quite a number of times. I believe the relation of the teething period to the baby's behavior depends on the child. Babies have varied developmental patterns.

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