Teething is one of the great milestones of your baby’s development and memories of your baby’s first big toothy grin will be treasured forever. Some babies sail through the process and are showing off their first teeth before you know it, but for others it can be a more uncomfortable time, causing distress to both you and your baby.
It’s impossible to tell how your baby will react until that first tooth begins to cut, but we hope that the information and advice provided in this section will help to reassure you and ease you through the teething process.
Like grown-ups, all babies deal with pain differently, and of course some will have an easier time of it than others. However, most babies with get a little grouchy and irritable!
The first signs of teething usually begin a few months before the first tooth appears so you will need to look for particular symptoms to ensure that this is actually the cause. This is important because all too often, teething gets blamed for a variety of complaints, such as fever, vomiting, runny noses, diarrhea and rashes all of which could be signs of a different problem. In fact, most healthcare professionals agree that teething should not make your baby ill, so if you’re unsure of the cause of your baby’s discomfort or they are suffering from any of these conditions, you should always consult your doctor.
* restlessness, irritability and disturbed sleep patterns
* sore, red gums
* flushed cheeks
* loss of appetite
* a slight rise in temperature (but not above 39C, which indicates a fever)
* dribbling (which may cause a rash or sore, chapped skin on the chin)
* a sudden desire to chew anything they can lay their hands on!
* an urge to bite. This should not be perceived as a sign of aggression or anger, more of a means to ease the pain.
Sometimes you can actually see the tooth cutting through the gum, or you may be able to feel it emerging if you run a clean finger along your baby’s gum line. Another good indicator that your baby is teething is that they will want to chew on anything. It could be toys, fingers or food! This is a completely natural reaction to the changes that are going on within the gum and it is thought that chewing on something hard feels quite soothing.
How to ease the irritation of the arrival of those first new teeth?
There’s a lot for parents to take account of – cuddles, the right food, objects to chew on will all help successfully pass through the important teething process. Teething can be a difficult time for babies. Here are some things you can do to relieve their discomfort:
A little extra tender loving care goes a long way when your baby is having a hard time teething. Hugs and cuddles will help comfort and reassure your baby if they are distressed.
Rubbing their gums
Lightly massaging your baby’s gum with a clean finger can be soothing and help alleviate some of their discomfort. Take the chance to do this while applying a topical teething gel which will have the added benefit of helping to provide ongoing relief afterwards too. (Always read the label)
Teething babies love to chew and bite – on anything! Many mums find that sterilised teething rings can be useful for and they can actually help the teeth to cut through. Why not pop a liquid-filled teething ring in the fridge first to cool it down? Just make sure that it’s clean and definitely not frozen.
Food for chewing
If your baby is over six months old, try offering them a sugar-free teething biscuit or unsweetened rusk. Alternatively, some like to gnaw on chilled bread slices or carrot sticks. Whatever you choose to give your baby make sure they are supervised and that they cannot bite chunks off, which could cause your baby to choke. It is also preferable to avoid foods that are too hard as these could bruise the gums and cause further pain.
Cold helps to numb the pain, so chilled yogurts, unsweetened apple puree or other baby foods could help. Make sure the food isn’t frozen and will cause any chills. Cold drinks Likewise, cool drinks can help soothe the whole mouth. Try cooling boiled water or extra breast or formula milk in the fridge. Teething gel Teething gels massaged into the gums with a clean finger can provide fast-acting and targeted relief. Look for ones that are sugar-free and colour-free.
Infant medicine (analgesics)
An analgesic should only be given after consulting your doctor.
Soothing sore chins
Excessive dribbling caused by teething can irritate babies’ chin, neck and chest which may become dry, chapped and sore. Try to keep their skin as dry as possible (a bib will help) and change any wet clothing. Applying a simple barrier cream can also help keep their skin soft and smooth and may ease any chapped skin
As soon as your baby’s first teeth start to appear you should start brushing them twice a day with a toothbrush specially designed for babies little mouths.
Babies accept things that are familiar to them, so do let them hold a brush, without toothpaste, to get used to the feel of it, but don’t be surprised if they start brushing their teeth, their hair, and even their favourite toy with it! Letting your baby watch you brush your teeth will also help encourage them to see it as a normal daily routine not to be scared of.
Should I use fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride comes from a number of different sources including toothpaste, specific fluoride applications and perhaps the drinking water in your area. These can all help to prevent tooth decay. If you are unsure about using fluoride toothpaste, ask your dentist. The current advice is to use a pea-sized smear of toothpaste, and children should be supervised up to the age of 7 to make sure that they spit out the toothpaste and not swallow it.
Brushing removes plaque, a sticky, colourless film which builds up on the teeth containing bacteria, saliva and milk/food debris. The bacteria in plaque convert sugar from juice or milk into acid and this can cause the teeth to decay so it is vitally important that you keep sugary foods to a minimum. Don’t forget the hidden sugars either – check the ingredients listings on foods and drinks for words like fructose, sucrose, dextrose and syrup.
Sweet versus savoury
Once on solids, try to encourage your baby to like savoury foods and be careful not to pass on any negativity you may have about eating your greens’ etc. There is no reason why most children should not like vegetables, particularly if you try to make them fun, for example you could ask them to imagine broccoli florets as little trees etc. Start them on pureed vegetables (see First Foods) and natural fruit juice diluted in water. While fruit juice may sound healthy it is important to dilute it for small children because fruit is naturally high in sugar and the acid can dissolve the teeth. Also bear in mind that sugary drinks are more likely to cause tooth decay if they are taken between mealtimes or just before bed, so try to only give them with food. Similarly, dummies should never be dipped in honey or other sweet substance.
Visiting the dentist
Although most babies don’t have their first dental check up until around the age of two, it’s a good idea to take them with you when you go for a check up so that they have time to get used to the dentist and familiarise themselves with the environment.
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