Why Kids Get Irritated While Teething

August 22, 2022

Teething can be a rough time for babies and their parents. Some children weather the pain of new teeth erupting from the gumline relatively quietly, without much fussing or crankiness. It’s far more common for teething to cause tears and frustration. Particularly for babies too young for an explanation about why their mouths are in so much pain. Understanding what to expect and answers to questions like "How long does teething fussiness last?" can help ease the struggle for all involved. So what do you need to know about why teething makes kids cranky and how can you ease it?

When does teething first appear for infants?

The average is 4-8 months for the first tooth to appear, and they continue to grow baby teeth for the first 30-36 months of age. Not all children fall into this range. Some children start growing baby teeth earlier (some are even born with their first tooth or three!). Don’t worry if your child develops on a different schedule than other members of your family or their siblings. Since teething begins before kids can communicate well, the pain and discomfort associated with growing teeth often emerge as cranky behavior or may seem like a mild cold. The timing of the teething may influence the answer to "How long does teething fussiness last?", but it also may be irrelevant.

What kind of symptoms are common with teething?

  • Crankiness
  • Excessive drooling or rashes from damp skin around the mouth and neck.
  • Coughing.
  • Low-grade fevers.
  • Ear pulling, cheek rubbing.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Biting, gnawing, and chewing on things (also exploration for babies).

How can parents ease teething symptoms?

Sore Gums

What to do: Gently rub with a clean finger where the tooth is erupting. Alternatively, you can provide pressure with a small, cold spoon, damp gauze, a clean frozen rag, or a solid rubber teether. Give lots of love and cuddles. A parent’s best cure for a fussy baby is attention. You cannot spoil an infant with snuggles. However, your comfort can trigger the release of hormones that will help them feel better. Your hugs are healing!

What to avoid: Liquid-filled or plastic teethers can break and become a choking hazard. Likewise, not all materials marketed for teething are infant-safe. Do your research and avoid anything that might leach or break apart. Anesthetic products designed for relieving sore gums are not suggested for children under 2. Homeopathic teething products are also under less regulation and may contain unsafe ingredients. The FDA recommends that parents seek immediate medical care “if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating, or agitation after using homeopathic teething products.” This may be a sign of belladonna poisoning.

Excessive Drooling

What to do: This symptom can cause rashes, coughing, and diarrhea. Keep the skin near their mouth dry and clean as the excess moisture can cause rashes. A barrier cream can help ease sore, chapped skin and help prevent infection.

What to avoid: While coughing and loose stools can be a product of normal teething, they can also be symptoms of more serious conditions that require medical treatment. Monitor your child for high fever, watery diarrhea, and vomiting. Your pediatrician can monitor and make sure your child is not developing a more serious illness and verify they are getting the hydration they need.


What to do: Monitor their temperature. A low-grade fever - falling in a range from 98-100 degrees F - is not particularly concerning. For a fever of this magnitude, you can use an appropriate over-the-counter pain reliever. Your pediatrician can give you dosage advice based on your child’s age and weight if you need guidance.

What to avoid: Don’t allow high fevers to linger without medical attention. If their fever begins to spike above 101 or continues, call your pediatrician.

Pulling and Cheek Rubbing

What to do: This is often a product of molar development. Much like you would do for gum pain elsewhere, you can apply light pressure or massage with a clean finger, cold rag, or damp gauze to help relieve the pain.

What to avoid: Do not ignore these symptoms. These behaviors may also be caused by an ear infection. If the symptoms endure or come with a high fever, contact your child’s doctor.

It's reasonable for parents to want to have a simple answer to the question of how long does teething fussiness last. Bouts of fussiness can last about three minutes on average, but with many things, there's a range that varies from child to child and tooth to tooth. Teething is often the most painful for front teeth and molars. You may find that your child is significantly more cranky when those teeth are erupting. A little understanding can help both caregivers and babies navigate their new set of teeth with much greater ease.

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