Ouch! What to expect when your baby starts teething
When your baby is teething, not only will she be fidgety but will also start chewing on everything in sight. By knowing what to expect, and what to do, you can ease her discomfort.
(Compassionate Eye FoundationDavid Oxberry/Getty Images)

Your baby can begin teething as early as three months, but typically teething begins between 4 and 7 months.

The first teeth to appear through the gum line are usually the bottom two front teeth, otherwise known as the central incisors. About four to eight weeks later, the four front upper teeth, the central and lateral incisors, appear.

These teeth are then followed by the two teeth flanking the bottom teeth, the first molars and then the eye teeth. By your child’s third birthday, all her primary teeth should have already made an appearance.

This set will last until she’s about six years old.

The symptoms of teething

While babies do suffer some symptoms while teething, the severity of symptoms differs according to individual babies.

It’s usually best to consult your doctor if your baby exhibits any of these signs for extended periods of time in order to rule out other serious causes:

  • Irritability
  • Drooling
  • Gum swelling and sensitivity
  • Refusing food
  • Cheek rubbing and ear-pulling
  • Problems sleeping
  • Low-grade fever
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose

Helping your baby with the pain

  • Wipe your baby’s face often with a damp cloth to remove all spittle and prevent rashes
  • Place a cloth under your baby’s head to catch the drool when she’s sleeping so that you don’t have to replace all the sheets in the morning
  • Give your baby something to chew on. While she’s teething her gums will be swollen and sore, a wet washcloth placed in the freezer for half an hour makes a really good teething aid.
  • If you’re using a teething ring, try not to leave it in the freezer until it becomes rock hard, as this might bruise those tender gums
  • Try rubbing your baby’s sensitive gums with a clean finger or a cold spoon
  • Apply teething medicines, such as Teejel. Remember to read the package insert to be sure of the correct dosage.

Oral care

Taking care of your baby’s first set of teeth is important for her long-term dental health. If your baby’s teeth are not taken care of properly, they might fall out prematurely and cause damage to her permanent teeth.

Daily dental care should begin even before your baby’s first tooth emerges. Wipe your baby’s gums with a damp washcloth or gauze. As soon as the first tooth appears, brush her gums and teeth with a soft infant-sized toothbrush and water.

Do not use toothpaste. By the time all your baby’s teeth have appeared, it’s a good idea to brush them twice a day, after meals.

By the age of 3, your child can start using toothpaste to clean her teeth. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste specially manufactured for toddlers and make sure that she spits it out.

Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth - the liquid can pool in her mouth and cause tooth decay. Another step you can take to prevent tooth decay is to make her last bottle of the night water.

The importance of baby teeth

Not only does your baby need these teeth for biting and chewing, but they also serve as spacers for her permanent teeth, they help in the development of her speech and are important for her self-confidence. 

If by the end of your baby’s first year, there is still no sign of a tooth, bring the matter up at her 12-month check-up.

If your baby has all the signs of teething but seems to be in an unusual amount of pain, it’s best to call your doctor for advice.

Teething need not be a painful ordeal for all concerned.

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