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9 Signs of Teething to Watch For (Beware the Lurking Monster!)

Do you know the signs of teething? 

There’s a very good chance that teething is the reason your chubby Dr. Jiggles suddenly transformed to an epic Mr. Hyde monster.

Still…chances aren’t answers.  And judging from the fingernail scrapes on the armchair and the wild look in your eyes, you need ANSWERS. As a good friend, who hates to see nice furniture ruined, let me present to you 9 teething signs that will predict a tooth is just over the horizon.

The 9 Sure-Fire Signs of Teething

  1. You actually see a tooth. #TheMoreYouKnow
  2. Buckets o’ Drool
  3. Chewing. And Chewing. (And Chewing)
  4. Constant Coughing
  5. All Hail Queen Crankypants
  6. Sleep Schmeep
  7. The Fake Ear Infection
  8. A Rash Beard
  9. Vampire Mouth

There’s the Cliffs Notes Version. Now let me explain what they actually mean.

Teething Sign #1:
BLOW ME OVER!
I Durn-Darn See a Tooth!

Perhaps the surest of the sure-fire signs of teething is actually seeing a tooth. (You can always count on me to share the tricky tips!)

If this is your baby’s first teething rodeo, start poking your finger around the bottom front and feel for a little ridge.

If this isn’t your first teething rodeo, the chart below will give you a general idea of where to search for the next tooth.

If you don’t feel anything, try to get him to smile REAL-BIG (we have such tough jobs…) and peek at his gums. Swollen and red means a tooth is about to erupt.

Signs of Teething #2:
Buckets ‘O Drool

Drool.

It’s slimy.  Sticky.  Unpleasant.

Fortunately though for Defendant Drool, it has a helpful purpose that I can actually argue for.  Firstly, drool protects those tender gums from the various things he will try to teethe on.  (Think: a cushion of saliva.)

Secondly, the antibodies found in drool actually protect him from the evil germs camping out on all the crap he finds to chew on. This is especially comforting when you find him happily gumming the dog toys.  (It will happen, friend.  Even to the most vigilant of mothers. Thank God for drool…) Accept the inevitable and buy some good drooling bibs.  They will absorb the flood and prevent you from having to change his outfit every 2 hours.

There are a few other reasons for excess drooling you should be aware of.  If your baby has been drooling like a factory for months and months and isn’t showing any of these other signs of teething, speak to your doctor.

A Deviated Septum

My brother was diagnosed as an adult with a deviated septum…which meant he couldn’t breathe out of his nose as a baby…which meant that his mouth was open constantly…which meant that his salivary glands were in overdrive trying to keep his tongue moist…which explains why he was covered in drool slime like a slug until he was three. Your doctor can do the dirty work of checking your baby’s nose for this.

Blocked Adenoids

Another cause for late droolers are blocked adenoids.  Adenoids are close to the sinuses, so if they are blocked, your baby isn’t going to be breathing well out of his nose.

Childhood sleep apnea has been shown recently to be a lot more common than previously thought.  Researchers have shared it may be more common than asthma – affecting as many as one child in 10.  If your child is older than 9 months and still having significant sleeping issues, check for these sleep apnea signs.

Teething Sign #3:
Chewing.  And Chewing.
(And Chewing.)

I swear, I once saw an infant army-crawl herself across the kitchen to a cabinet just so she could chew on the knob.

She looked.

She saw.

She gnawed.

All that effort.  All that determination.  Just to get that silver knob between her mandibles.  (Who knew platinum was so delicious?)

Babies, because they’re so smart, have figured out that chewing is a pain reliever.  The tooth is pushing up. So by pushing down, they relieve some of the painful pressure.  That’s why you should gather a collection of good (non-knob) teething options like…

Awesome Baby Teethers Worth Trying

1. Teething Wafers 
2. Bite & Brush Teether
3. Otto Octopus 
4. Batman Teether
5. Teething Feeder and Rattle

If you’re not a fan of the Sophie Giraffe dog baby chew toy, check out these 10 unique baby teethers other parents have fallen in love with.

Signs of Teething #4:
Constant Coughing

There are three reasons why babies typically cough, but only one is a sure-fire sign of teething. Here’s how to tell the difference between them.

I dedicate an entire post to cracking the Baby Cough Code. It’s definitely worth reading,  plus you get to download a free Call Your Doctor printable for the fridge!

The Allergy Cough

The allergy cough is caused by a runny nose drip drip dripping down the back of your baby’s throat, irritating it.  The easiest way to distinguish an allergy from a cold is the color of snot.  If it’s clear, he’s allergic to something (usually pollen, dust, or something else airborne).  Speak to your doctor about allergy treatment options.

The Cold Cough

The cold cough is accompanied with yellowish, greenish mucus oozing down the back of the throat.  This picture of Elena greeting me first thing in the morning will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  (WARNING: SUPER GROSS PICTURE.)  You don’t have to watch him suffer from the sidelines.  Try some of these infant cold combat strategies.

The Teething Cough

Unlike the allergy and cold coughs above, the teething cough is not caused by the nose drippage.  It’s caused by mouth drippage.  If his nose is clear and dry as a bone, than the cough is due to drool, and the most probable cause to all that drool is a tooth or two (or four).

Teething Sign #5:
All Hail Queen Crankypants

I always knew when Elena was about to pop a tooth. No, I’m not psychic. I just noticed one very obvious thing:

She got CRANKY.

I’m not talking about the usual occasional “tired and grumpy”. I’m talking about throwing toys, screaming, and looking at me with all the fury a cute munchkin could muster.

There was no pleasing her.  If I picked her up, she wanted down.  If I put her down, she wanted up. Eating was a nightmare.  Sleeping was non-existent.

Honestly, knowing her now as a nine year old, it makes total sense she would react this way.  When I get hurt, my first reaction isn’t usually tears.  It’s ANGER. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that this little Mini-me reacted to teething in a similar way.

How did I survive the temporary reign of Queen Cranky Pants?

  1. I deliberately thought about how she was feeling.  She has known very little pain up to this point in her little life, and now little teeth are drilling holes in her gums. By thinking of how she was feeling, it helped me get beyond annoyance & frustration and into compassion & understanding.
  2. I used earplugs.  It’s like an out-of-body experience.  You hear all the fussing, but it seems far far away… (Get ones with a cord like this one.  The loose earplugs are choking hazards.)
  3. I gave her more teething medications than I gave the other kids.  They were easy teethers.  She needed more help.

For the sake of your sanity, assume any baby schedule you’ve developed is worthless during and shortly after teething.  Whenever your baby doesn’t feel well, it’s going to take some flexibility to get things back on track.

Signs of Teething #6:
Sleep Schmeep

For the babies who are particularly sensitive to teething, sleeping is the usually one of the first things they chuck out the nursery window.

They shift from being Rip Van Winkle to an insomniac zombie within just a few days.  It’s a shocking transition.

Normally, parents begin weaning off night feedings and starting to sleep coach between 5 and 6 months old. (As always, any night weaning should be done with the permission of the doctor.)

Ditch that plan during Teething Time.  He needs all the comfort he can get.  Nurse or bottle feed at 2 am if you have to in order for him to sleep.  Sleep and comfort is the name of the teething game.  🙂

Bedtime was also the time you should break out the big guns and offer some kind of medication (OTC or all-natural) for pain management.  I go over all those options in this article.  Your baby is likely to be more aware of teething pain at night, when he has less distractions.

Teething Sign #7:
The Fake Ear Infection

The nerves under the gums that your baby’s teeth are pushing against travel all the way up the jaw line and behind the ear.  Babies (again, because they’re so smart) have discovered that sometimes if they tug on their ear, their mouth will feel better.

Unfortunately, parents often see this and assume these signs of teething are really the signs of an ear infection.  So they bundle up little junior, fork over a $30 co-pay, only to hear that the doctor can’t do anything because it’s TEETHING.  (Are you reading my bitterness?)

If your baby has these other teething signs, but the ear canal isn’t bright red, save yourself the co-pay and give him a good teether instead.

Signs of Teething #8:
A Rash Beard

Since the Drool Factory is working overtime, spilling over that cute little chin like Niagara Falls, it’s common for babies of both genders to grow a Rash Beard. Little red bumps may start popping out in various beard designs: from the Cowboy Handlebar Mustache to the infamous Iron-Man Goatee.

You can protect against the Rash Beard by slathering on Vaseline or (even better) Aquaphor on his chin and neck.  The saliva will slide right on top of his skin without irritating it.

Signs of Teething #9:
Vampire Mouth

Once in a full moon, a little tiny blood blister can form between your baby’s upcoming tooth and the top of his gums. As the tooth moves up, it breaks the bubble, and a little blood will appear in your baby’s mouth.

Yes.  It’s freaky.

Fortunately though, since it doesn’t hurt, your baby won’t even notice.  (Unless you over-react, in which case expect frightened tears.) Do, however, poke your finger around in there though to make sure it’s a popped teething blood blister and not something else more sinister.

Teething? Pshw!
You’ve Got This.

Teething touches on one of our deepest mothering fears: That our baby will need something and we won’t know how to give it.

Here’s the good news:  According to your baby, you’re doing a great job.

Doubt me?

  1. Do you smile at your baby?  Looking at your face has been scientifically proven to increase his serotonin levels – helping him feel more peaceful and relaxed.
  2. Do you hold your baby close when he starts to cry?  Again, studies show that babies held by their mother during shots experience less pain anxiety. Your smell and presence is a comfort when your baby is feeling pain.
  3. Have you just spent the past 10 minutes reading an article on how to figure out if all this is about teething and how to handle it if it is?  That’s a giant A  for AWESOME EFFORT, friend.

Teething can be extremely stressful.

…and it can be hard on the baby too.

Personally, Teething Time was consistently one of the hardest parenting stages for me.  The lack of sleep.  The feelings of helplessness.  The trying-everything-but-nothing’s-working.

The key is to keep moving forward. Keep trying things. Experimenting with remedies. The law of averages promises that something is going to work, right? You just have to find your lucky number!

Have You Read These Yet?

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129 thoughts on “9 Signs of Teething to Watch For (Beware the Lurking Monster!)

  1. Can teething cause lack of eating? My 1 year old has 4 teeth so far, she’s just gotten over a cold but is totally off her food but seems to be trying to bite everything else! She’s also a bit whiny, could it be her teeth?

    1. It could be, absolutely, or it could be because she had a cold. It’s common for babies with stuffy noses not to eat as much. (Because breathing is preferable to food.)

      I would keep a food log for a few days, jotting down what she’s eating, when, and how much (bottles and breastmilk included). Then stand on a scale with her and subtract your own weight, doing it again after a week. This will help you make sure she’s not losing weight. Have you seen this article on teething remedies? It may come in useful, if it is teething!

  2. When I was teething I was so bad they thought I had meningitis. My kids (4 kids) I used ice pops. The kind in the clear plastic wrapper you push up. They would chew on those for relief. When they got a little older I’d slice a corner off so they got the flavor too. Works well. Better than the freezer toys.

  3. Lol, I needed this … a good laugh. Thanks Heather. That pic of Elena made me literally laugh out loud. My boy is almost 14 months, and usually a happy little chap. But he’s been gnawing on everything he could find, including my leg, and a few days ago he woke up drenched in sweat with a smooth, dotty red rash on his cheeks, and some on the rest of his body, but mostly on his cheeks. He’s snotty, coughing (yellow, greenish slime) and generally miserable. I’m taking him to the Dr this afternoon because I’m worried that it might be something other than teething – the cheek rash is what worries me. He’s been eating OK, but this morning he didn’t want to eat anything and just slaps the spoon away. I’ve put a steamer in his room with some eucalyptus oil, which seems to help him breathe. Any advice or comments?

    1. Marli, I’m glad the post encouraged you, Marli! 🙂 The yellow, greenish slime is usually a sign that he’s got an infection. A trip to the Dr is probably a good idea. The rash is usually impetigo, because of all the drool. Slather on some vaseline or (my personal favorite) Aquaphor to protect and moisturize the skin and it usually clears up after a little while. (But while you’re at the Dr you might as well have that looked at also.) Hope this can help!

  4. Ladies, I have found something that helps when all else fails. My LO has been ferociously chewing on EVERYTHING blankets clothes etc. I saw her chewing on her sock and took it away. She cried like I broke her Lil heart into pieces. Made me start crying to. So I gave her one of the brand new infant socks. I thought if I soaked it in ice water maybe she would like it better……20 minutes later she put it down and was back to crying. So I dipped it in ice water and wrang it out, then I broke off some banana popsicle pushed it in the sock tied a good knot in the end and poof baby LOVED LOVED LOVED it! I rotate between ice water and a sugarfree popsicle. I use the really thick white terrycloth baby socks so it doesn’t get too cold for her to keep knawing on it! I only moisten the end of the sock so she can hold the other end without it making her hand cold. Ahhh at last she is happy again!

  5. My daughter teethes for MONTHS before a tooth pops through. She is ridiculously grumpy and mean because of it. It is draining. I feel like I’m going crazy. She is on her 2nd set of molars now and I just want to run away. Lol

  6. My daughter is 16 months old but i did’nt find any problem during teething she did not put anything in her mouth ,i even dont use any teether ….lucky one

  7. hi so relieved to have come across ur site. my son is 4m and he has all d signs of teething but what am not sure is he stools 3-4 times daily for sometime now but look healthy and hydrated should I be worried, have been to d Dr and gave me some antibiotics but hasn’t stop could it be teething? thanks.

    1. Darby,

      Is he having diarrhea, is that why you are concerned? I’m glad to hear that he’s healthy and hydrated, that, of course, is the first concern.
      You might want to try adding probiotics to his diet. These can help his little intestines find balance.
      Also, yes, it could be teething!

  8. my 10 month old no teeth yet daughter is crying since yesterday. mild fever, watery red eyes are from not enough sleep.runny nose .red cheeks. still not sure if she is teething?

    1. Preety,

      Could be! However, I recommend you take her to see your pediatrician if things don’t clear up soon.

    1. Oh my! I can only imagine. Do you have any kind of a support group (family or friends) that can step in so you can catch a nap now and again?
      Also, you might like this article we have on twins. If you find it’s not applicable for your little ones (they might be past this) feel free to pass it on to your mothers of multiples friends. 🙂

  9. Oh no, I had a feeling my baby was teething. After reading this, I am 99% sure he is. He is only 4 months, I feel like that is a little soon for teething! I guess a trip to the dentist it is!

    1. Kate,

      Sounds like you have a precocious little guy! My first born cut his first teeth at 4 months too. It can happen! 🙂

  10. Ok so ..I am kinda lost. My little one is 2 months. He just had his wellness visit with his Dr 2 days before this post. He did get shots in both legs and had to swallow a different vaccine. He was ok without crying or being grumpy, the day after the vaccines …all heck broke loose :(. Our baby is a real meanie!!! No sleep last night and yesterday all throughout the day he was crying, no getting comfy or sleeping at all.

    He isn’t drooling very much really but has started to chew on his little hands more. Aaand like I mentioned ..he’s super GROUCHY!!! Now I am grouchy too and I’m ready to leave him on a doorstep ( just kiddung..but not really lol…jk jk)

    Is this possibly a tooth cuttin’ in? HELP MEEEEEEEEE!

    1. Vanessa,

      I hope you both are sleeping again. However, anytime you are concerned about crying being related to vaccines don’t hesitate to call your doctor right away!

      I am guessing that you are on the right track with teething being the case, though it’s a little on the early side. Some babies start the process really early (like 2 months!) and continue for a couple of months before the tooth actually pops through. Be sure to check out some of our other teething articles (here and here) for more help on this new adventure!

  11. Great article! You officially reached Mongolia tadaaaa!
    My little girl is 13 months old. For the last 2 weeks I can see that her molars are all about to cut through anytime soon. Her upper and lower gums are white and puffy, she’s been extremely cranky, clingy, drooling all the time AND having this dry honking cough few times a day. Her cough doesn’t bother her at night but it’s just that honking sound i’m worried about. We’ve been to her doctor. The doctor said her lungs are clear no sign of croup, cold or other infections as she has no fever, no sneezing, no congestion, no mucus or phlegm. OR it could be an allergy because we have a fish tank, lots of plants, carpets, air freshener, scented candles, scented incense like sage etc and she’s often exposed to smoky polluted air. Her nose is dry but her throat is little her the doctor said. So, my question is that does teething cough has a honking sound?
    Thanks!

    1. Miiga,

      How fun to be communicating with Mongolia! 🙂

      The thing about teething signs is that they are SO varied from child to child. There is a very good chance that the cough is because of the extra drooling! However, if you can do anything about the quality of air in your house that would be good to, huh? If you are able, I would recommend looking into diffusing essential oil instead of using air fresheners and scented candles. That, right there, could really help.

  12. Thank you for your article! My husband and I have been at our wits end!! Our little girl is 4 and 1/2 months old and was sleeping 6-7 hrs at night since 2 months then at 3 months I noticed drooling and suspected teething…little did I know what was in store. For the past three days she’s barely slept, and has been so unhappy all day. Crying and screaming and we’ve been unable to console her. We caved last night and gave her infant motrin for the first time and she finally slept 5 hours! I was so nervous that we’d be judged for “drugging” our baby.

    One question, I’m convinced a tooth must be coming in because her pain intensity seems to have sky rocketed over night but I’m not sure what Im looking for…her gums look a tiny bit red (she won’t let me look for long) but I don’t feel a bump…help?

    1. Amanda,

      My experience has been it’s often hard to get a good look inside those tiny mouths. If she is drooling a lot and chewing on her hands then I think you are on the right track. I remember so well the first time I had to give my little one pain meds, ach, the guilt! My baby was just SO glad though. 🙂 One other thing, have you seen this article? We tried an amber necklace with our youngest with good results.

    1. Thanks Em, for sharing that link. I wasn’t aware of those things, so I’m thankful for your willingness to leave a comment and share it with readers!

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