Useful advice on teething, with information on the development of baby teeth, common symptoms, problems and teething relief.
Even whilst your baby is growing inside you the first teeth are forming under the gums. Teeth are important for chewing food, talking, positioning teeth for straight and healthy growth and producing a warm smile.
Teething is the process of your baby's teeth appearing either individually or in pairs. Generally speaking, teething begins around six months, and will continue until your baby is about three years old. However in some healthy babies, the first tooth appears in the third month; in others, it does not emerge until the baby is a year old.
Usually, the front teeth appear during the first year; the first and second molars appear between ages one and three. Teeth usually appear sooner in girls than in boys. Teething patterns tend to be hereditary, so knowing when you and your spouse began to cut your teeth may provide some clues. Your child's physical and mental development has no connection with when he or she cuts their first teeth.
Baby teeth usually emerge in pairs; first come the two lower central incisors, the two remaining lower incisors, the first molars, the four-pointed canines, and, finally, the four two-year molars. Expect twenty teeth by your child's third birthday.
Teething (or "cutting teeth") often causes discomfort, restlessness and irritability. As the roots of the teeth grow, they push the edges of the teeth through the gums. The effects are usually most dramatic with the first teeth, because the sensation is new to the baby, and with molars, due to their large size.
Signs of teething include:
- Increased fussiness, night-time crying and "clingy" behaviour.
- Excessive dribbling.
- Chewing on fingers, teething rings, and other objects.
- Swollen, red, inflamed gums.
- Increased demand in breast or bottle-feeding.
- Rejection of breast or bottle because sucking hurts gums.
- Poor appetite.
- Interrupted sleep.
If your baby is more than four months old, is crying more than usual and shows signs of teething, you could try a baby teething gel which cools the gums and provides temporary relief. A baby will usually respond to comfort and distraction, in the form of cuddling, rocking or changing scenery.
It is important to distinguish between normal teething discomfort and the aches and pains of an illness. Fever, diarrhoea and vomiting are almost always illness-related. Irritability, ear tugging and sleeplessness are most difficult, they could just be teething related or a symptom of something more serious.
Teething has not been shown to cause illness. It is normal for a baby to have up to a dozen separate illnesses in its first year. Teething will often overlap periods of illness, but doesn't cause the other.
If after twelve months no teeth have appeared, consult with a dentist or physician. This could be a harmless, inherited, late-teething situation, or it might require further examination by your doctor.
Suggestions for alleviating some of the pain your baby may experience whilst teething:
- When dribbling is excessive, give your baby plenty of water or diluted juice to replenish fluids.
- For babies older than four months try a baby teething gel spread across the gums.
- Try distracting your baby with plenty of hugs or something to play with. Alternatively provide a change of scenery to distract from the pain.
- In some instances your doctor may recommend infant pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Follow your doctor's direction and never give a baby aspirin.
- Never apply alcohol in any form to baby's gums. For babies alcohol can be a dangerous poison.