Take a bite out of teething

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

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.


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.


• 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.


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.


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.

There’s noth­ing cuter than a baby’s toothy grin. Ker­ryn Massyn tells you how your baby’s pearly whites de­velop and what that means for you

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