Sunday, May 6, 2012

Teeth part 2- Teething


Sometime between birth and 3, your child will cut about 20 teeth. Exactly when and in which order varies from child to child. On average, the first tooth appears at around 6 months. I have known children who were born with teeth and others who did not get one tooth until they were a year old. Some children get two at a time, first the bottom front then a week later, the upper front and so on (as is the suggested schedule). Others get one tooth then nothing for a month or more and some babies will get one tooth after another for a period of time. Any milestones for teething have to be very general.

Teeth that are present at birth (called “natal teeth”) are generally extra teeth and the doctor may recommend that they be removed.  If not, they should be taken care of and cleaned.


During teething, babies may not feel good. Some may run a fever and some may lose their appetite. Diarrhea is not uncommon during teething. You might see increased drooling, swollen gums and even a rash around the cheek area. Your baby may seem irritable and may be restless. You might even see the baby pulling on an ear.  One problem is that these are all also signs of other illnesses. It is easy to blame everything on teething but it may not be. I was guilty of this. My daughter had cut two teeth when she exhibited a fever and was cranky. I said “teething” but three days later she broke out with a rash so I took her to the doctor. She had Roseola, a childhood illness like measles, which was contagious. She did not get any more teeth for another month.

What to do

It is called “cutting teeth” because the teeth are literally cutting through the gums. This is often not a pleasant experience for baby and therefore not a pleasant experience for anyone who lives with him. There are some things that may help. Chewing on soft things, cold and massaging the gums may help. Cold, clean (but not frozen) teething rings may help. Allowing the baby to suck on a cold wet cloth may help for a while. Massaging the gum with your finger may help but be careful because those teeth are sharp when they start to poke through.  Remember that tooth decay is caused by bacteria so be sure everything that goes in the mouth (and that may be everything that goes into baby’s hand) should be clean.

What not to do

Teething biscuits are NOT recommended because they stick to the teeth and promote tooth decay. Frozen teethers could damage your baby’s gums so cold is good, frozen is not. There are a number of numbing gels and creams that provide some relief but care should be taken when using these and you should consult your pediatrician regarding the latest guidelines on their use.  There are some concerns about one of the main ingredients in these gels (benzocaine) so be careful about using these. 

Note that this post follows the post on care of the teeth. That is because care of the teeth should begin before the teeth start coming in. Below is a rough timeline of teething courtesy of Health Link BC.

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