For some babies, teething can be a long and painful process – it’s important to help ease their discomfort with lots of soothing and plenty of cuddles. We’ve compiled a list of top tips to help ease the pain of teething.
Teething is a big milestone for your baby and is a normal part of development. The milk teeth actually begin to develop when the baby is growing in the womb, but the teeth only start to grow out through the gums when the baby is six to nine months old (although it can be before or after these ages).
When the teeth grow, special chemicals are released by the body, which causes part of the gums to separate and so allows the teeth to grow through. The teeth grow throughout the gums with front teeth coming through first, followed by the top middle teeth. Other teeth follow over the following months. A child is usually aged around two and half or three when they have their full set of first teeth.
Some babies become distressed with the pain of swollen and tender gums, while others seem to have no uncomfortable symptoms at all.
Symptoms of teething
For most babies, the signs of teething include:
- Cold-like symptoms
- Low-grade fever
- Not sleeping well
- Chin rash
- Cheek rubbing and ear pulling
How to ease the pain of teething
Teething is almost certainly uncomfortable for infants. The good news is that teething is a temporary phase in their development and there are a whole host of ways that you can provide comfort and relief for teething troubles.
1. Cold facecloth
Rinse a clean facecloth in cool water and place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The very cold, and slightly crunchy texture of the facecloth provides relief – and some distraction – for little teethers. Make sure to wash it after use. Facecloths provide a safe alternative to rubber and plastic teething rings, which can carry a risk of breaking and releasing the liquid inside.
2. Clean fingers
Biting down on the clean fingers of mum or dad can provide enough pressure to swollen gums to bring some relief to teething babies.
3. Teething gels
Over-the-counter teething gels offer some relief for irritated gums for babies over two months. With active ingredients that numb the area where the gel is applied, teething gels can be an effective solution for very upset teething babies.
4. Chilled foods
Tender, puffy gums get a lot of relief from cold items during teething – so offering chilled foods during this time can bring a lot of comfort. If your baby isn’t old enough to be eating frozen homemade fruit ice blocks, try allowing your baby to enjoy the flavour and coolness of fresh fruit while avoiding any potential choking risks.
5. Massage sore gums
By rubbing your baby’s swollen gums with a clean finger or the back of a cold spoon, you will apply enough pressure to the sore gums to numb the pain temporarily.
6. Clean with gauze
Teething gums can be very tender gums and attempting to clean your baby’s teeth when there are new teeth erupting in his mouth can make him very distressed. Instead of using a toothbrush which may prod into painful spots, try wiping the teeth with a piece of soft gauze instead. That way, his teeth can stay white – and you can avoid his tender gums.
7. A soothing cuddle
The power of the cuddle cannot be underestimated when it comes to helping babies deal with aches and pains. Some hugs and kisses – along with some playing – may be all it takes to get your baby through the pain of teething.
8. Pain relief medication
If you feel that your baby’s teething pain is extreme, you may want to consider pain relief medication. Talk to your pharmacist before you go down this avenue because she may have some other suggestions you haven’t tried yet.
“There are a number of products designed for kids at teething age that can be refrigerated. The soft and cool rubber offers a nice, natural relief for babies’ gums.” – Joe Griffin
Dr Abigail Moore is a paediatric dentist who operates private practice limited to paediatric dentistry at the Burlington Dental Clinic and the Hermitage Medical Clinic. She also teaches clinical paediatric dentistry to undergraduate dental students.
When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
As soon as teeth come through, they should be kept clean as plaque will build up on them. Teeth should be cleaned twice a day – a great way to establish good habits early! Some parents wipe the teeth with a clean flannel or muslin. There are also special finger brushes, which are fun and easy to use, or a very soft baby toothbrush. Children often enjoy chewing the toothbrush as it can relieve those tender teething gums.
There is no need to use toothpaste before two years of age unless advised by your dentist, but a small smear just to get used to the taste of mint is fine. Once a child is two years old, a peasized amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste should be introduced twice daily, with no rinsing after brushing to allow the toothpaste to have maximum preventive effects.
Why are baby (primary) teeth so important and how long do they last?
By the age of three years children usually have 10 teeth on the top and 10 on the bottom. These teeth are important for chewing, facial development, adult tooth positioning, speech development and of course smiling. Children begin losing the front primary teeth at age six to seven years in a flurry of tooth fairy excitement! The back primary teeth (molars) are not lost until 10 -12 years old, meaning that we must keep these teeth clean and healthy until then.
If the primary teeth develop dental decay, children can suffer considerable pain and discomfort, so keeping the primary teeth healthy is essential. The back baby teeth also hold spaces for the adult teeth to erupt into. If the molars are lost prematurely, it may allow shifting of the neighbouring teeth into the gap and cause crowding. This crowding may make a child more likely to need orthodontic treatment.
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