A Guide to Teething and Baby Teeth

Teething can be an uncomfortable time for some babies. As the teeth begin to emerge, they can cause the gums to become swollen and sore. This can lead to other problems such as irritability, an inability to sleep and an unwillingness to eat food because of the pain.

Of course, teething can also be a difficult time for the parents too. Once those teeth start to appear, some babies want to bite down on everything they can get hold of – including mum and dad’s fingers a lot of the time!

As well as behaviour such as biting, it can simply be difficult for parents because they find it hard to soothe their baby’s hurting gums. Every baby teeths at a different time and it lasts for different periods. So there is no manual you can consult to make everything run smoothly!

Most babies develop their first teeth between the ages of four and seven months old. However, your child may not have a complete set of teeth until they reach the age of three. During this time, the bottom middle teeth usually appear first, followed by the upper middle teeth, then the teeth along the sides of the mouth and the back.

The difficulty for parents often comes with knowing when your baby is upset because they are teething and when they may be exhibiting symptoms of something else. Teething has been known to cause a diverse range of symptoms such as rashes and fevers, which can of course be symptoms of other sorts of infections. So if you are unsure whether your baby is showing symptoms of teething or not, you should consult your doctor for peace of mind.

As we mentioned, babies teeth at different times – there is no set schedule. Some parents find that their child develops their teeth late. Usually, your baby will have a 12-month check-up so that your GP can evaluate their all-round health. If teeth have not begun to appear by this time, you should raise the issue with your GP at this point and ask for their opinion.

For parents, the task during teething is twofold. Firstly, you need to be able to comfort your child and find ways to relieve the discomfort when it is at its worst. Secondly, you need to ensure that you child is getting into good oral hygiene habits early in life. Until they are old enough to brush their teeth themselves, you will ensure that your child’s teeth and gums keep healthy and are well looked-after.

So let’s begin with the first stage: comforting your child and relieving the discomfort. Some babies find it helps to have something to chew on and there are lots of teething toys available that are safe. Cooling foodstuffs, like yoghurt, can sometimes help too.

If the discomfort for your child is severe, your doctor may recommend using a pain relief gel which can be rubbed directly onto the gums. This should only be used in very small quantities. Some children, however, respond to having their gums rubbed and massaged even without the pain relief gel.

Once the teeth have arrived, you need to look after them. For the first year, brushing teeth is not necessary. However, the gums and mouth still need to be kept clean – this should be done by wiping them after meals with a soft damp cloth.

By the time your child reaches 18 months old, he or she should have a few teeth and be ready to start learning how to brush them. It will be awkward and the first attempts will probably be quite clumsy. Your dentist will probably recommend using a soft brush and a small amount of toothpaste. When your child is this young, it is not recommended to use a flouride-based toothpaste. Too much flouride can lead to flourosis.

As well as teaching your child how to brush their teeth, you should also ensure that you are taking care of their diet to encourage good oral health. As much as possible, you should avoid giving them too many sugary foods or drinks, as these can rot the teeth. You should also ensure that your baby is not allowed to take a bottle of milk to bed. Milk contains sugars which can rot the teeth – so drinking milk right before sleeping means that these sugars have all night to attack the newly emerged teeth.