baby teething

There’s nothing like the thrill of watching your child hit those anticipated milestones—first smile, first words, and first steps. But there are big events that can be uncomfortable such as baby teething or newborn odontiasis. The more you know about teething, the better you can help your child overcome it.

Teething is when teeth start to work its way through the gums. This particular milestone can be a frustrating time for you and your child. It brings forth discomfort and many sleepless nights. As for when the process actually happens, not all babies start at the same time.

To help relieve the pain the baby may experience, it’s important to observe proper dental health. Your child’s first set of teeth paves the way for his or her adult teeth to erupt from the gums. If they are removed or decay too early, your paediatrician might refer you to a dentist so that treatment can be performed immediately. This is necessary to allot space for adult teeth to come through.

Here’s what to expect during baby teething and how you, as a parent, can make this transition as comfortable as possible.

  • Teeth will develop during their first year

There’s really no “normal” period as to when your child’s first tooth will come out. But for most, baby teething usually happens between six to 12 months1. Some may even start later so don’t panic and think there’s a developmental delay. You can always check in with your paediatrician if you observe unusual symptoms.

The first teeth to appear are the central incisors or the two bottom front teeth. After a few weeks, the same thing will happen to the central and lateral incisors (four upper front teeth). Next to erupt are the lower lateral incisors flanking the two bottom front teeth. The first molars or back teeth will develop after one year when your child starts to grind food. By the time the child's three, he or she will have all their primary or milk teeth2.

  • Drooling and increased chewing are telltale signs of teething

Baby teething symptoms are unique to each child. The first signs, however, are often increased spit and drooling, as well as rubbing anything on the gums. You may also notice that the baby wants to gnaw or chew on hard things. Other babies might also experience periods of crankiness which often result in prolonged crying, sleepless nights, and disrupted eating patterns3.

In some cases, baby teething is painless. But for others, they may experience tender or swollen gums. This can be due to accumulating germs in the new break in the gum area. Gum pain may also slightly elevate your child’s temperature—don’t fret because this is normal. If it progresses to high fever accompanied by diarrhoea or runny nose, contact your doctor immediately. This could be due to a virus and not teething itself. Occasionally babies may develop into low-grade fever in response to the teething process. If this prolongs or it is associated with other symptoms, kindly seek immediate medical attention for your child.

  • Alleviate teething pain with cold remedies

Baby teething could lead to swollen gums. This could discomfort your child greatly. Luckily, you can help ease the pain by putting something cold to the baby's mouth. A wet washcloth, chilled spoon, or teething ring can be applied over the gums. You may also opt to massage the baby's gums with clean fingers. A teething baby will want to chew more. Offer the baby solid and refrigerated teething toys to keep him or her occupied. Avoid ones that have liquid inside because those might break or leak. If you’re trying teething biscuits, don’t leave the baby unattended. This is because the baby might choke on the smaller pieces. Moreover, you might want to refrain from doing this if your child is not consuming solid food yet. If all else fails, ibuprofen works, just as long you get a doctor’s approval.

  • Avoid homeopathic teething tablets and topical gels

Teething tablets that contain belladonna (a plant poison) and benzocaine can pose harmful side effects when taken by your baby. Although these have the potential of numbing pain, the Food and Drug Administration strongly disapproves of the use of these products4.

In addition, amber teething necklaces are also to be avoided. They are considered as choking hazards and might strangle your baby’s neck. Moreover, there’s no significant research to support its effectiveness claims5.

  • Use fluoride modalities

Fluoride is a mineral that hardens the enamel of teeth, preventing tooth decay in the process. It is not only found in toothpaste but also in tap water and other supplements which you can add to your child’s diet6. At six months, give the baby a few ounces of water in a sippy cup as he or she begins with his or her first solids. If approved by your paediatrician, fluoride supplements such as tablets and drops are to be taken daily to maximize benefits.

  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day

As soon as baby teething starts, you should brush his or her teeth with water and fluoridated toothpaste. If your child is three and can already spit, it’s acceptable to use a little more toothpaste7. If not, a pea-sized amount or smaller should be fine. Always help your child when he or she brushes his or her teeth because there’s a chance he or she might swallow the toothpaste which can be harmful, especially in large doses.

Remember to brush the child's teeth at least twice a day, after meals. Seek first the advice of your paediatrician if your child can also start flossing early on. Usually, this is done when two teeth start to touch. Additionally, avoid letting your child go to bed with a sippy cup. Milk can accumulate in your baby’s mouth causing plaque and tooth decay.

  • Make a dental appointment as soon as teething starts

After the first eruption of teeth or during 12 months, it's time to seek dental care for your child. A paediatric dental checkup can ensure that your baby’s teeth are developing normally. And if there are problems, you can resolve them immediately. If you treat fast decaying teeth immediately, you will give ample space for the adult teeth to grow. Baby teething can be overwhelming, so if you notice anything unusual, it’s best to consult with an expert because your child might have an underlying condition unrelated to teething.

Baby teething can be exciting, and at the same time challenging. It might be hard to see your child in pain, but most of its symptoms are normal and part of the baby's development. Try easy home remedies to help alleviate discomfort. If symptoms persist, a regular dental checkup always helps. Remember, if you take care of the child's teeth, it will determine his or her dental health as he or she matures.

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Expert Resource:
Dr. Raymond Choy Wai Mun
(MCR 18097A)
MBChB (UK), Aviation Medicine (Singapore)


REFERENCES:

1. Baby teething symptoms (n.d.). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/teething-and-tooth-care

2. Teeth Eruption Timetable (n.d). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11179-teeth-eruption-timetable

3. Teething:Tips for soothing sore gums (n.d). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/teething/art-20046378

4. FDA warns consumers about homeopathic teething products (n.d). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-drug-class/fda-warns-consumers-about-homeopathic-teething-products

5. Teething Necklaces and Beads: A Caution for Parents (n.d). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/teething-tooth-care/Pages/Amber-Teething-Necklaces.aspx

6. A Pediatric Guide to Children’s Oral Health (n.d). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Oral-Health/Documents/OralHealthFCpagesF2_2_1.pdf

7. Teething Tots (2018). Retrieved Aug 4, 2020 from:
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/teething.html