The first baby teeth usually appear around 8 months of age. Occasionally babies are born with teeth - as a nurse and midwife, I've only come across this once in 24 years. Often if teeth are delayed several may erupt at once. Teeth should appear by at least one year of age. Later than this needs checking out with your dentist just to make sure there are teeth present in the gums. One baby, I saw recently had six teeth erupt all at once.
Does teething cause pain?
Some parents say not, but others report a variety of symptoms ranging from:
- sleep disturbance - waking up at night with a sharp scream
- diarrhea or loose stools
- excess saliva
- more reflux than usual
- rosy cheeks and pulling at ears
- slight temperature 37.5C
- unsettled and cranky behaviour
- gnawing on everything he or she can get their hands on
The excess saliva and loose stools are a byproduct. The loose stools and reflux occur, we think, because the stomach is producing more acid saliva.
Ears get sore because the eardrum is inflamed as part of the teething process.
They may get a cold and be rundown. Maybe it has an impact on the immune system because of the inflammatory response?
The parenting book Baby Love, which I really respect, says that teething has no symptoms such as those mentioned above, but I beg to differ. I've seen far too many of them and consistently.
So what can you, the parent do about teething?
Parents spend a lot of money on teething aids. Some swear by them and are totally convinced that they work, so I'm not about to dispute that!
- The classic analgesics - baby Panadol and Nurofen, used as advised by the pharmacist.
- Amber necklaces - a North Bondi favourite and favoured by Miranda Kerr. It's important to remove them before nap and sleep times as they are a choking hazard, as identified by the Australian Consumer & Competition Commission: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-12/day-care-death-prompts-call-for-new-child-care-sleeping-policies/5963396
- Teething grains such as Brauers just check that whichever homeopathic product you use has no sugar added to its formula. Generally, an ingredient ending in 'ose' has sugar in it.
- Teething gels such as Bonjela. Recent controversy linked excess use to Reyes syndrome. It is the excess salicylates that cause this. Currently, Bonjela is sold in Australia, and New Zealand still contains salicylate. Consumer pressure saw this removed from UK product: https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/teething-gel-danger-for-infants/story-fn6bm90q-1226005032121.
- Try a damp face washer that has been put in a freezer for an hour or so. Babies love to gnaw on them.
- Puraforce remedies do great teething homeopathic products by mail order: https://www.puraforceremedies.com/product/baby-teething-drops/
- The Gummee Glove is a great teething device https://gummee.life/content/17-worldwide-distributors
Just remember, it is a normal process and will not last forever. Comfort your baby, and a bit of love goes a long way to reducing the hurt of sore gums.
By the age of two, the first set is usually through, and it's essential to look after them properly once they've arrived.
- Tooth brushing - twice a day
- Low fluoride baby toothpaste from 18 months
- Stop bottles at 6mths-1 year (move to a sippy cup with a hard spout)
- Avoid sugary drinks and juices and add sugar to pureed fruit.
Any concerns in the teething process, contact your dentist or local GP.
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