Take a bite out of teething
TEETH PLAY A big role in a child’s life. There’s the tooth fairy, and your child’s excitement at waking to find a few coins under her pillow in exchange for her tooth, and then the appearance of those first awkward permanent teeth. Of course, endless trips to the orthodontist follow shortly. However, before all this happens, your baby starts her dental journey by teething.
Teething is a major milestone, and one that is somewhat trying for all concerned. Many a mom has complained about her normally placid baby turning into a fidgety, niggly child when she teethes. This is normal. Your baby may also have other symptoms, such as drooling. By knowing what to expect, and what to do, you can ease her pain and make your life a bit easier.
Your baby can begin teething as early as three months, but typically teething begins between four and seven months. The first teeth to appear are usually the bottom two front teeth, otherwise known as the central incisors. About four to eight weeks later the four front upper teeth, the central and lateral incisors, appear.
The two teeth flanking the bottom teeth, the first molars and then the eye teeth then follow these teeth. By your child’s third birthday all her primary teeth (also known as milk teeth) should have already made an appearance; this set will last until she’s about six years old. They will then gradually be replaced by her permanent teeth.
THE SYMPTOMS OF TEETHING
Each baby goes through teething with different symptoms; some are very irritable, while others aren’t even aware of any discomfort. If your baby exhibits any of the symptoms below from about four months it’s likely she is teething.
However, it’s best to consult your doctor if your baby exhibits any of these signs for extended periods of time in order to rule out serious causes. • Irritability The closer a tooth gets to your baby’s sensitive gum line, the more
pain she will experience. This may make her niggly.
• Drooling The emergence of teeth causes increased salivation, so your baby may drool more than usual. • Gum swelling and sensitivity Because a tooth is pushing its way up through her gums there may be some discomfort which can affect her appetite, leading to her refusing food.
• Cheek rubbing and ear-pulling Your baby may rub her cheeks or ears to show you she’s uncomfortable.
• Problems sleeping This is caused by the discomfort.
• Low grade fever and cold-like symptoms Although many moms report these symptoms while their babies are teething, doctors suggest that rather than teething causing a fever or a runny nose, the baby is simply teething at a time where she is in contact with more germs (because she’s mouthing, has started crawling or is more mobile) and that the fever or runny nose is caused by this.
• Diarrhoea This is also a symptom experienced by many moms but unconfirmed by medical professionals.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
• Wipe your baby’s face often with a damp cloth to remove all spittle and prevent rashes, and place a cloth under your baby’s head to catch the drool when she’s sleeping. • Give your baby something cold to chew on. While she’s teething her gums will be swollen and sore, a wet washcloth placed in the freezer for half an hour makes a really good teething aid. If you’re using a teething ring, try not to leave it in the freezer until it becomes rock hard, as this might bruise those tender gums.
• Try rubbing your baby’s sensitive gums with a clean finger or a cold spoon.
• Apply teething medicines to your baby’s gums. Remember to read the package insert to be sure of the correct dosage.
LOOKING AFTER THOSE LITTLE TEETH
Even though they’re not permanent, looking after your baby’s first set of teeth is important for her long-term dental health. If your baby’s teeth are not taken care of properly they could cause damage to her permanent teeth.
You can begin looking after your baby’s dental health even before your baby’s first tooth emerges by wiping your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or gauze. As soon as her first tooth appears, brush her gums and teeth with a soft infant-sized toothbrush and water, but do not use toothpaste. By the time all your baby’s teeth have appeared it’s a good idea to brush them twice a day after meals.
By the age of three your child can start using toothpaste to clean her teeth. Use only a pea-sized amount and make sure that she spits it out. By encouraging your child to look after her teeth now, you are instilling a lifelong habit.
Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth; the liquid can pool in her mouth and the sugars in the milk cause tooth decay. It’s also not a good idea to let your baby walk around with a bottle in her mouth the whole day for the same reason. Another step you can take to prevent tooth decay is by only giving water for the last bottle of the night.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BABY TEETH
Your baby uses her primary teeth for biting and chewing once she’s established on solids. They also serve as spacers for her permanent teeth; they help in the development of her speech and boost self- confidence.
If by the end of your baby’s first year there is still no sign of a tooth, bring the matter up with her paediatrician. If your baby has all the signs of teething, but seems to be in an unusual amount of pain, it’s best to call your doctor for advice. Teething need not be a painful ordeal for all concerned.
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