Myths and facts about teething in babies

Teething can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful due to the different symptoms that babies can display, and all the ways parents should or can handle these. When their child becomes ill, many parents are quick to say “Oh, it’s because they’re teething.” Often parents will attribute certain symptoms to teething when they may not be.

Myths and misconceptions about teething are common among parents as they can be told different things or be reading information that can vary from one source to another. Some remedies that are recommended may not be ideal or can even be hazardous to a child.

It’s important to distinguish truth from fiction which this article will help to do with the help of Dr Teresa Li, dentist from TL Dental.

Myth: That baby teeth don't matter because they're going to fall out anyway

Fact: It’s a common misconception that baby teeth don’t need to be looked after the same way adult teeth do. However, as Dr Li explains, baby teeth act as placeholders for adult teeth. “If a baby tooth falls out due to tooth decay and the adult tooth is not yet ready to break through, the neighbouring teeth may drift closer together and close in on that space. This movement could make the adult tooth come in crooked.”

Fact: Baby teeth aid speech development

Fact: Teeth play a vital role in our verbal ability.

Dr Li says, “Our teeth, lips and tongue work together to help us make certain sounds when talking. Our teeth are especially important for “th” sounds that require the tongue to touch the back of our front teeth.

“So, losing baby teeth due to decay before the adult teeth emerge can have a negative impact on a child's speech.”

Myth: You don't need to floss baby teeth

As more baby teeth emerge and start to touch each other, it’s a good idea to introduce children to flossing, explains Dr Li. Food can get trapped between baby teeth and cause bacteria to build up so flossing should be an essential part of children's oral health routine.

Fact: The Australian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry recommends taking your baby for their first dentist visit around the time of their first birthday.

Also, starting dental visits early helps to ease your child into this new part of life and can help them to become less afraid as they get older.

Myth: Teething causes fever

Teething tends to happen around the 6-to-24-month mark, and according to Pregnancy Birth Baby, it’s the same time when they are more susceptible to infections. If the fever reaches 38 degrees or higher, see a doctor straight away as this may be due to an illness and unrelated to teething.

Myth: Teething gels are safe

Fact: Caution must be taken if using teething gels.

According to studies, teething gels should not be used on children under two years since the gels contain the numbing agent benzocaine, which in extreme cases has been reported to cause complications. Teething gels can numb the back of the throat and interfere with swallowing and the gag reflex, one study noted, explaining that they therefore carry the risk of choking.

As Monique Christidis Parenting Expert and founder of Baa Baa Baby advises, if you are going to use teething gels, “Apply a tiny amount to the gums only and follow instructions on the packet.”

Myth: All teething toys are safe

Fact: Do not use teething necklaces as they can pose a strangling hazard, or choking hazard if baby bites off any of the beads. There is also no clear evidence that teething necklaces or jewellery are effective in easing teething discomfort.

Teething rings of the liquid form when frozen, can burn a child’s gums. Purchase firm teething rings instead.

Myth: Teething causes diarrhoea

One of the symptoms of teething is extra saliva and drooling, which can cause poos to become looser, and watery. Teething itself doesn’t directly cause diarrhoea. If in doubt, always book to see your healthcare provider.

Myth: I can kiss my baby on the mouth and they can eat off my spoon.

Fact: Tooth decay is spread by bacteria, which can be passed on to babies by kissing them on the mouth, blowing on their food to cool it down, tasting the food on a spoon and then feeding it to them. Parents with active tooth decay are more likely to pass on oral bacteria to their children than those with good oral hygiene.

Myth: Teething causes a lot of crying and disturbs sleep

Fact: Your child may act a little more fussy, due to mild gum pain, which Seattle Children’s Hospital explains can be from mouth germs getting into the new break in the gum. However, the discomfort isn’t enough to cause excessive crying or cause disturbance in sleep. If these things happen, it may be worth seeing a doctor. Speak with your Child Health Nurse if you would like some guidance on managing your baby’s sleep and settling.

Myth: All rashes are caused by teething

Fact: Once again, due to increased drooling as a symptom of teething, the excess drool which can also contain bits of food, can irritate the skin. This should only be on the face.

Sometimes babies develop a nappy rash when they’re teething, this is most commonly on the skin around their nappy area. Changes to the pH of their wees and poos may be the cause, as well as their poos becoming more watery, causing irritation to the skin. If you notice a rash on other areas of the body, then it is not teething. Remember, any rash needs to be checked by a doctor.


Written by Tracey Cheung, April 2023. Tracey is a freelance writer who specialises in creating health and wellness content for the community, drawing on her experience as a mother.

Reviewed by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, February 2024.

Midwife Cath Midwife Cath
Written By Tracey Cheung
16/09/21 - min Read

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