Question: My baby has reached the age at which teething should be due to start. Could you please tell me what kind of reactions to expect and how they can be dealt with?
Answer: Although the exact timing varies from case to case, I’m assuming that the baby you’re talking about will be approximately six months old. This is the age at which teeth are most likely to start appearing. Along with potty training, walking, talking and speaking those first few words, teething is one of the major milestones of a baby’s young life, and the kind of thing which new parents often get together to discuss, comparing experiences and approaches.
The phrase ‘teething’ actually refers the process by which your baby’s first teeth, often referred to as ‘milk teeth’ emerge through the gums in a particular order. By the time your baby is three years old, he or she will have a set of twenty milk teeth and the order in which they will emerge is usually, although by no means always, as follows: lower front teeth, then upper front teeth, followed by molars and then canines. The molars are the larger, square teeth at the back of the mouth, used for chewing and grinding food, whilst the canines are the pointed, fang like teeth which have the job of tearing food into edible chunks.
Of course, every child is different, and so the dental care for your baby will be specific and particular, perhaps worked out in conjunction with a dental care specialist in London or elsewhere, but it is still safe to say that there are certain characteristics which are shared by very many babies, and are therefore things which you can be on the lookout for. These include:
1. A baby who is irritated, bad tempered and a little more grizzly than is usually the case. 2. Your baby may develop a rash on their chin or other parts of the face. 3. They may rub or pull at their ear. 4. Producing excessive saliva which drips from their mouth. 5. Loss of appetite. 6. The gums themselves may appear swollen and sore looking. 7. They may wake in the night more than has previously been the case. 8. Pressing their gums down on random objects, appearing to bite at them in an effort to alleviate the irritation.
Any of these factors taken on their own could cause considerable distress, but the point is that they tend to combine, leading to a baby feeling unhappy and parents wondering what they can do. A teething baby will grab at and gnaw random objects, suffer from disturbed sleep and drool onto their chin much more than usual, something which will, in turn, cause reddening and soreness.
When these symptoms actually begin to present themselves it is an indication that a tooth is about to break through the gums in another few days. Once the tooth is visibly present (the first sign may well be feeling a small, sharp ridge when you rub the affected area) the symptoms may continue to manifest for another three or four days.
In some cases, the symptoms of teething may even take in more extreme forms, such as a high temperature, severe nappy rash or diarrhoea. Although caused by teething, these should still be checked out by your doctor in order to eliminate any more deep rooted causes.
In terms of alleviating your baby’s discomfort during the teething process, there are steps that you can take. These include purchasing pharmacy supplied medicines, generally in the form of child friendly versions of painkillers. This may not be necessary, however, since many parents find that their baby can be soothed by teething rings –plastic objects, often filled with a gel, which can be chilled and given to your baby to chew on. Along similar lines, you may give your baby cold foods, or a chilled pacifier, and many parents find that the thing which offers most relief is using a clean finger to gently massage the affected area.
One of the best pieces of advice I can offer to any parent working through the teething process is to make contact with their nearest dental clinic. The sooner your child begins to grow accustomed to visiting the dentist, the better their dental health will be, and a dental hygienist will be able to advise as to the best brushing techniques to use to protect your baby’s precious new teeth.
Teething is a process which all children have to go through, and it often causes a degree of distress. By knowing the symptoms to look out for, the steps you can take to alleviate pain and discomfort and taking the advice of professionals you can minimise the disruption and put your baby on the path towards a lifetime of good dental health.