TRACEY LATTIMORE tells you what to expect and shows you how to ease your little one’s discomfort.
Every milestone your little one achieves is so exciting –whether it’s her first smile, her first giggle or the first time she sits up by herself. But seeing that first tooth finally emerge really does signal the beginning of the transition from babyhood to growing up. For many parents, discovering the first tooth can come as a real surprise – and it can literally happen overnight. One minute you’re letting her suck gently on your finger, and the next you’re feeling a rough, hard edge in her little mouth as the first incisor makes its way through her gum. However, some parents get ample warning that teething is about to begin, thanks to an unsettled baby who is constantly chewing on her fingers and dribbling down her chin for what seems like months. Teething usually begins at six months, but this varies between babies. Some are even born with teeth (around one in 2,000babies have a tooth when born), and some teeth emerge in the first few months. But you can usually expect the lower incisors (the first teeth) to come through by around nine months, and most babies will have cut their first tooth by their first birthday.
Signs of teething
Unfortunately for some babies (and parents), the signs of teething can start early. Weeks and often months before the first tooth emerges, your baby may chew her fist and dribble, and she will try to put everything she holds into her mouth. Well-meaning neighbours will probably delight in telling you that your baby is teething, but the fact is that her actual teeth are probably some months off.
Common signs of teething include:
• Chewing of hands or toys.
• Flushed, red cheek(s).
• Slightly raised temperature (but below 38°C).
• Raised or reddened gums.
• Excessive dribbling.
• Irritability and grisliness.
• Poor appetite resulting from sore gums.
• Disturbed sleep.
A full set of milk (baby) teeth consists often teeth at the top and ten at the bottom. Most babies, however, don’t achieve this until around the age of three. But don’t panic – your baby won’t be continually teething until that time; rather, she’ll get the majority of her teeth through by the age of 18-20 months, and the last few will come a bit later.
Easing the pain Some babies aren’t affected by their teeth at all, while others seem as if they’re feeling the pain. But there are plenty of things you can do to help. Firstly, offer your baby a lot of comfort. Sometimes she’ll just need a reassuring cuddle from you when her gums are sore. After all, she won’t know why her mouth hurts, and just being close to you will be comforting for her. Giving her something to chew on should also help, especially if it’s straight out of the fridge. You can buy special teething rings to keep in the fridge so they’re nice and cold when your baby chews on it. Try Chicco’s Fresh relax teething ring (€2.99 from local pharmacies) which is designed to massage and cool little gums. It contains sterilised water and stays cold for a longtime to offer your baby relief. You can also try the nuby Icy Bite Keys, (€5.69 from Boots) which can also be kept in the fridge. A teething ring, such as the Born Free Silicone teether (€10.50 from Boots and independent pharmacies),will also help to stimulate and sooth baby’s gums. Cold food can help too. If she’s over six months-old and on solids, try giving your baby a yoghurt or some cold stewed apples, for instance. A drink of cold water in a sippy cup might also be beneficial. The Baby Safe Feeder (€11.50 from Little People) allows baby to chew on food without the risk of choking on it. Fill it with frozen fruit or ice for an instant tooth soother.
Why not give natural remedies a try too?
Nelsons Teetha Teething Granules(€7.25) and Nelsons Teetha Gel (€5.99 for 15g) are available from health stores such as McCabe’s and Holland & Barrett, and are homeopathic remedies designed to soothe symptoms of teething using natural Chamomilla. If she won’t settle and you’re concerned she’s in pain, you could give her infant paracetamol such as Calpol. Use a measured syringe, available from pharmacists, if your baby doesn’t yet take a spoon. If she’s over two-months-old, putting a smear of a local anaesthetic gel, such as Bonjela teething Gel (€2.80 from Boots) on her sore gums is also worth a try.
Taking care of baby’s teeth
It’s really important to brush your baby’s teeth twice a day as soon as they appear, as this will not only help prevent tooth decay, but it will also get her into good habits. You should use a special baby tooth brush, as these have soft bristles, a small head and an easy grip handle – and only use water. According to dentist Dr Barbara Coyne, most of Ireland’s water is fluoridated, so there’s no need to add fluoride in the form of toothpaste for babies and young children. “You shouldn’t use toothpaste until your child is over two,” says Coyne. “Babies tend to suck the toothpaste off the brush, and this can possibly cause mottling (fluorosis) of the adult teeth, as they’re already positioned in the upper and lower jaw,” she adds. Sit with your baby on your lap to begin with, and hold your baby’s chin as you gently brush each tooth. Try to get behind each tooth if you can, and brush around the gums. To maintain healthy teeth, make sure you avoid giving your baby sugary drinks, and try to brush her teeth before you give her milk at night if possible. Never give your little one fruit juices or squash in bottles, as this can prolong the length of time her teeth are in contact with sugar, and it can also encourage a sweet tooth. After all, once you’ve spent months successfully managing your baby’s lovely pearly whites, you’ll want to take the best care of them as possible!
Which teeth, when?
Most babies follow a set pattern when it comes to cutting their teeth, although all babies are different – don’t worry if your baby’s teeth come through earlier or later.
Around 5-7 months:
Two bottom front teeth (incisors).
Around 6-8 months:
Two top front teeth.
Around 9-11 months:
Two top lateral incisors
(either side of top front teeth).
Around 10-12 months:
Two bottom lateral incisors
(either side of bottom front teeth).
Around 12-16 months:
Molars, top and bottom.
Around 16-20 months:
Canines, top and bottom.
Around 20-30 months:
Second molars, top and bottom.
Teething should not make your baby ill. These symptoms are not considered to be signs of teething – see your GP if they persist:
• A temperature of 39°C or higher
• Rash on the body
• A runny nose or cough