When thinking of teething, most parents think of young babies – cranky and drooling – as they cut their bottom and upper front teeth. Unfortunately, that’s just the start of teething, which continues well into the toddler years when the final set of baby teeth – the second molars – emerge.
What’s going on with toddler teething?
At this point in Baby’s development, you may already be seeing evidence of this final teething phase. The second molars begin to show themselves between 20 and 30 months, and both top and bottom teeth can emerge at around the same time during these months.
Molars are the larger teeth that help grind up food when children chew. Because they’re so much bigger and wider, some toddlers are uncomfortable when the second molars come in, while others seem to sail through it. Both reactions are perfectly normal.
Since second molars are set so far back on the gum line, they aren’t as noticeable when they begin creeping up. But unlike when he first started teething, Baby probably has some of the verbal skills he needs to tell you if the back of his gums start to hurt, so you won’t have to do as much guessing.
Teething and the “terrible twos”
As an extra challenge, this final teething stage happens around the same time that toddler development includes a series of tantrums, frustration, difficulty sharing, and more. Sore gums can throw even more of a wrench into Baby’s daily routine at a time when he is already reaching for consistency and stability.
Remedies for easing teething issues
Just like when Baby was teething when he was younger, you’ll want to ease his discomfort however you can. There are a few remedies that often work during this time, and you can mix and match to see what works, but don’t hesitate to call Baby’s pediatrician or pediatric dentist if you feel these molars are causing real soreness.
- Serve up cool foods: Treat your toddler to chilled foods to offer some relief, including applesauce, yogurt, frozen bagels, or smoothies made with frozen bananas or berries. Chilled water helps, too.
- Chill, then chew: Dampen a clean washcloth and pop it in the freezer for a few minutes, then let your toddler chew on it.
- Rustle up a teething toy: You can try a solid teething toy to help massage the gums. You also may need to experiment with sizes to find one that will reach these back teeth. It’s OK to chill it, but make sure it doesn’t get too hard, or too cold.
- Soothe those gums: TLC can also help, so snuggle with your toddler and make gentle circles on his gums with your clean finger.
What to avoid during toddler teething
- Don’t use a plastic teething ring filled with liquid, as toddlers can bite through them with all those teeth that have already come in (and younger children can, too).
- Don’t use gels containing benzocaine or belladonna teething tablets.
- Don’t assume a fever that coincides with Baby’s teething has resulted from it. It’s more likely a symptom of an unrelated issue.
- Don’t rush to provide pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Most toddlers don’t need them during teething. If you do choose to offer them, make sure to follow the dosing instructions for your child’s weight, which may have changed, if he has grown since last time he took pain relievers.
Teething pain is no fun for parents or toddlers, but you and Baby are reaching the finish line!
- “Dental Growth and Development.” WHG Logan, and R. Kronfeld. “Development of the Human Jaws and Surrounding Structures from Birth to the Age of Fifteen Years.” Journal of American Dentistry. 1933;20(3):379-427. American Dentistry Association. 1933. MyChildrensTeeth.org. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Adapted 2003. http://www.mychildrensteeth.org/assets/2/7/RS_DentGrowthandDev.pdf
- Dina DiMaggio, M.D., and Julie Cernigiaro, D.M.D. “Baby’s First Tooth: 7 Facts Parents Should Know.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. 8/25/16. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/Babys-First-Tooth-Facts-Parents-Should-Know.aspx
- Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., MBE. “How to Help Teething Symptoms Without Medication.” Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance. HealthyKids.org. American Academy of Pediatrics. 11/21/15. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/How-to-Help-Teething-Symptoms-without-Medications.aspx