Two-year molars are the last of your child’s “baby teeth.”
Teething is often an unpleasant experience for babies, as well as for parents who can be left feeling helpless to resolve the discomfort.
The good news is that these are the last teeth to erupt until your child gets their permanent teeth. Knowing how to treat pain and discomfort can help get your family through this final stretch of toddler teething.
The molars are the last teeth to come in, and they may come in one at a time. Your child will likely get their first molars first, which are located next to the canine (cuspid) teeth. The second molars are the molars directly behind the first molars, and they will be your child’s furthest back teeth until they get their wisdom teeth (third molars) sometime during their late teens or early adulthood.
While the exact timing of molar eruptions varies, most children get their first molars sometime between 13 and 19 months on top, and 14 and 18 months on the bottom. Your child’s second molars will come in between 25 and 33 months on the top row, and 23 to 31 months on the bottom.
You might notice that the symptoms of cutting molars are similar to other forms of teething. These can include:
- chewing on objects and clothing
- visibly sore, red gums
Despite the similarities, your child might also be able to tell you about their discomfort, unlike infants.
Many toddlers have no signs of discomfort and do not complain of pain when their molars come in. For others, the pain may be worse because molars are bigger than other teeth. Some children may complain of headaches, too.
You can help alleviate the pain and discomfort of molar eruptions with a combination of different home remedies. Medications can also be used as a last resort, but ask your pediatrician first.
Some home remedies can also go a long way in alleviating molar pain and discomfort. You may try:
- placing a cool, wet gauze pad on the gums
- using your finger to gently massage the area
- rubbing a cool spoon on the gums (but don’t let your child bite the spoon)
- letting your child chew on a wet washcloth (make sure the cloth is sturdy; if it starts falling apart, take it away)
Hard, crunchy foods can also be helpful for toddlers. Unlike teething infants, toddlers are better able to chew food more thoroughly before swallowing, but they should still always be supervised.
Try giving your child carrots, apples, or peeled cucumbers, and encourage them to chew on the side of the mouth that is bothering them the most. Make sure the pieces are small enough to prevent choking. Chilled produce can also be more effective in alleviating teething pain.
Items to avoid
Traditional teething rings may not be as helpful since they are primarily designed for younger babies and their front teeth (incisors).
Don’t give your child any devices that hang around their neck, like the so-called amber teething necklaces. Not only do these present choking and strangulation hazards, but there is no scientific proof that they actually work.
You should also avoid letting your child chew on hard plastic toys. These can hurt your child’s teeth, and there may be a risk of BPA exposure. Toys made from latex or silicone are alternatives that may provide extra relief.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) remains the most recommended pain relief medication for babies and toddlers. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) may also be helpful. Double check the correct dosage with a pediatrician. This is based primarily on weight. Your doctor may recommend children’s ibuprofen over acetaminophen if they have asthma.
Benzocaine-containing products may be given to older tots ages 2 and older, but you should ask a doctor first. These usually come in sprays or gels, such as Orajel. You might consider this as a last resort, or use benzocaine only for sudden episodes of sharp pain. This will reduce the chances of your child swallowing the product.
You should not use these types of products in younger children. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend giving benzocaine to infants due to the potential development of methemoglobinemia, and because it has not been shown to reliably reduce symptoms of teething. This life-threatening condition prevents proper oxygen circulation in the bloodstream. Symptoms include:
- bluish or pale skin and nails
- breathing difficulties
- rapid heart beat
Call 911 if your child experiences any of these symptoms. The best way to prevent dangers from benzocaine is to avoid it. If you must use it, make sure your child is at least 2 years old.
Molar eruptions aren’t necessarily a reason to visit the dentist, unless a prescheduled visit already coincides with these events. All children should have their first dental visit when they turn 1 year old.
Still, it’s important that you start teaching your child to take care of their molars, just as they do with all of their other teeth. As soon as the molars cut, be sure you gently brush on and around them with fluoride toothpaste.
Cavities tend to be most common in and between the molars, especially in young children who can’t floss and brush the back teeth as well as the front. Being mindful of the position of the molars can help in preventing cavities and tooth decay.
When to see a doctor
In most cases, uncomfortable symptoms are an unfortunate but normal part of the teething process. However, you should not let any of your tot’s severe symptoms go.
Address persistent fever or diarrhea with your child’s pediatrician right away. This could be a sign of an illness that’s happening at the same time as teething.
You might also consider calling a pediatric dentist if your child experiences persistent crankiness and discomfort while getting their molars. While uncommon, this could be a sign that the molars aren’t coming in properly.
Work with your child’s health and dental teams to determine the best course of action for teething and all related symptoms. Hang in there, and remember that the molars are the last of your child’s baby teeth to come through.