Baby Stages: Teething
Although they’re not vital while your baby is solely on a milk diet (and not even desirable when they’re breast feeding!), as your baby grows obviously you want them to grow teeth. (Gummy is a cute look for a baby, but it’s less so as they grow up!) They’ll pop through naturally whenever they’re ready, although unfortunately for some the process of growing those teeth is not always that much fun.
When do babies start teething?
Even before birth, small teeth ‘buds’ are beginning to form under baby’s gums and these can begin to push through at any time, often between 3 months and 1 year (typically the first ones will appear around 6 months, with symptoms beginning a few weeks prior). Don’t worry about when the teeth start to cut through though – there’s no strict timetable and all babies develop at different rates. Some babies are even born with teeth! My youngest son cut his first 2 teeth together when he was just 13 weeks old and had 8 teeth by the time he was 5 months. My eldest son was slower and not in a rush and was 5 months when his first tooth made an appearance and waited another few months before the second. Usually, the first to appear are the bottom middle ones (known officially as the ‘lower central incisors’), followed by the top front teeth (the ‘upper central incisors’). Over a period of around 18 months to 24 months, these four teeth will be joined by the neighbouring (lateral) incisors, first molars, canines, and finally, second molars. Most children will have a full set of 20 baby teeth by their third birthday.
The symptoms of teething
While a lucky few can see teeth pop up with hardly any symptoms at all, other babies do seem to suffer a bit with the process. Before the teeth break through the gums you may well notice some or all of the following: red or swollen gums, excessive dribbling, red cheek or cheeks, irritability and/or trouble sleeping, constantly putting hands, toys or anything in their mouth. If you look at or feel baby’s gums you might notice a bulge or see white underneath – this is the new tooth preparing to break through.
If the discomfort of teething affects baby’s sleeping habits it can be hard work for both of you, especially as by this age you may have just got them settled into a night-time routine, or be enjoying unbroken nights for the first time in months. While there are lots of remedies out there that can provide relief for your baby, just be a bit careful about what you believe! Seek proper advice from a midwife, health visitor, nurse or doctor…
Remedies, relief and old wives tales
There are some really strange supposed ‘remedies’ out there, purported to offer symptomatic relief for teething babies. One of the oddest is the idea that hanging a raw egg (still in its shell) in one of baby’s used socks over the door of the nursery will help in some way. Erm….! Another old ‘remedy’, which should DEFINITELY not be tried (as it’s dangerous for baby’s health!) is rubbing whisky on baby’s gums.
But what can you really do to help? Chilled teething rings, cold fruit or vegetable sticks (when baby’s over 6 months), or even a spoon that’s been in the fridge (not freezer) can soothe sore gums and help them to feel better. Even just applying a little pressure to the gum with your own (clean) finger can help – but be careful you don’t get bitten if baby already has a few teeth!
There are also lots of over the counter teething remedies available, and different people report varying degrees of success with these numerous gels, medicines and powders. Talk to other parents and consult your pharmacist or doctor for advice, and then give it a try to see what works for your baby.
Looking after teeth
As soon as your baby’s first teeth cut through you can start to get them used to brushing twice daily, initially just with a tiny smear of toothpaste on a baby toothbrush. Don’t worry if they’re not keen at first or if you feel like you’re not managing to do a thorough job – the important thing at this stage is getting them used to the routine. Try turning it into a game to make it fun or, as they get older, you could try one of the many smartphone apps with characters and music available to get your child interested in brushing and encourage them to do it properly (with your help). You can find more information about looking after baby’s teeth on the British Dental Association’s website: http://www.bdasmile.org/infants. It’s important to register your child with a dentist as soon as possible, and take them along to your appointments too so that they get used to the idea of going to the dentist and seeing you having your teeth checked.
And of course, having a lovely set of teeth looks fabulous on photographs… Smile!