A guide to baby teeth & teething

Teething is development of milk or deciduous teeth in children. These teeth are actually developed and in place inside the gums before the child is born. When the child is between 6 and 9 months old, these first teeth begin to emerge. The emergence of new teeth can be accompanied by irritation, and this period can be frustrating for both parents and babies.

Sequence of teething

The age at which the baby begins to develop its first teeth varies greatly. Some may develop teeth when they are six months old, while others may not develop teeth until a year has passed. In very rare cases, babies can be born with one or more teeth. This is not really a cause for concern. If, however, the teeth affect the baby’s ability to feed or there is a danger of swallowing the tooth, these teeth may have to be removed.

The first tooth normally emerges at the front of the bottom jaw, with the central incisors that are located at the top front following soon after. After this, the lateral incisors at the top and bottom on either side emerge. On an average, a baby can expect to have around 8 teeth by the age of one, and may have 20 baby teeth or a complete set at 30 months old.

Symptoms of teething

Some of the common symptoms that parents report are:

  • Excessive drooling.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Change in appetite.
  • Fussiness and irritability.
  • Flush cheeks.
  • Nappy rash.
  • Inflamed gums or sensitive gums.
  • Chewing or biting behaviour.

These symptoms are the most likely to be agreed on by dentists as connected to teething. Many parents claim that the teething process is accompanied by diarrhea and fever, but many dentists don’t agree that these symptoms have anything to do with teething.

If your baby does have a high temperature or diarrhea, consult your pediatrician.

Treatment for teething

Not all children suffer from symptoms of teething, and many kids go through the process with no signs of discomfort at all.

  • If your child does suffer from discomfort due to teething, your dentist will recommend an infant teething gel that has to be rubbed on the gums. These gels contain a mild local anesthetic that removes the edge of the discomfort.
  • A teething ring can also help to sooth a teething baby’s inflamed gums. For best results, chill the teething ring in the freezer.
  • You can also offer something hard but edible for baby to chew on, like hard biscuits or frozen carrots. These however, should only be given under complete supervision because of the risk of choking.
  • Paracetamol suspensions can also dull the discomfort.
  • Use petroleum jelly and apply around the baby’s mouth and chin to treat the skin soreness that can result from excessive drooling.

Hygiene for baby teeth

Dental care for the baby must begin before the first milk tooth develops.

  • Take a clean piece of gauze, wet with a little water, and wipe the gums daily.
  • When the first teeth emerge, brush them using a soft baby-size tooth brush and water. Remember, no toothpaste should be used on infants. Once all the milk teeth have emerged, make a habit of brushing the teeth twice daily. A fluoride toothpaste can be used once the child becomes mature enough to spit out the paste. Use small quantities of tooth paste, and never allow your child to swallow it or eat it.
  • Avoid letting your baby go to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice in his mouth, to avoid tooth decay.
  • Once the baby is old enough, teach him to floss. The best time to begin flossing is when at least two teeth are close enough to touch.
  • Cut down the amount of sugar that your baby consumes, or restrict these to meal times. Never use sweets as treats. Milk should be given without sugar.
  • Also, limit sodas and other fizzy drinks, and make a habit of using medicines that are free of sugar.