Baby teething: Symptoms and remedies

Has your baby started chewing on things a bit more than usual? This might be the reason.

When will your baby’s first teeth start to poke through? Most babies get their first pearly white at around 6 months, but your kid’s chompers may appear as early as 3 months or as late as 14, depending on such factors as when Mum and Dad started growing teeth and whether or not your child was born premature ( they tend to teethe on the late side ). How babies experience teething can vary extensively, too. Some have teething symptoms, such as excessive drooling and crankiness, weeks before the tooth actually appears, while others show no indications at all.

Baby-tooth timeline

Generally, babies get their teeth in pairs. First appear the middle two on the bottom. A month or so later, the two above those arrive. Still, it’s not uncommon to see a baby with four bottom and no upper teeth, or the opposite.

Signs of teething:

Apart from actually seeing a tooth poking through, and given that the process is distinctive for every newborn, some possible symptoms to watch for are:

The need to chew: The pressure of an emerging tooth underneath the gums may be alleviated by counterpressure, so teething babies often want to gnaw on things. The need to chew may also be a response to the odd sensation that something’s going on in there.

Puffy gums: Before a new tooth emerges, it can cause a reddish, swollen and bruised-looking area on a baby’s gums. Often the gum bulges with the emerging tooth, which you can see faintly under the skin (if you can manage to keep your baby’s mouth open long enough).

Excessive drooling: Increased saliva can indicate a new tooth, but it’s also a common developmental stage of infancy, so don’t just assume that drooling means teething. There’s no way to tell whether your baby’s spittle is the result of teething or not.

Fussiness, especially at night: Tooth emergence, when the tooth moves through the bone and gum, often comes in stages, with more activity during the night than in the day so your baby may be more irritable then.

A change in eating habits: Babies who have started eating solids may want to nurse or bottle-feed more because a spoon stings their inflamed gums. Others may do the reverse, eating more than usual because the counterpressure feels better. And babies who are still on the bottle or breast may start feeding eagerly but pull back because sucking puts uncomfortable pressure on the gums and ear canals.

Ways to soothe the pain

You may need to try a few approaches to see what works best for your child:

A wet, frozen cloth ( leave one end dry so she can get a good grip ): The texture of the thick fabric feels good, and the icy cold numbs sore gums. A chewy teething toy that’s been chilled in the refrigerator also works.

Massage: If the tooth is still deep in the gum and hasn’t formed a hurtful bruise, counter-pressure or friction where it’s about to emerge can work wonders. Try massaging the area with your clean finger.

Distraction: Teething pain is similar to a headache, it causes chronic, low-grade discomfort. You can often soothe your baby simply by distracting her from the pain. Give her more one-on-one time or excite her with a new toy. And don’t underestimate the healing power of touch: A little more cuddling on the sofa may be all that’s needed to take your child’s mind off her pain.

When to call the doctor

Because some signs of teething may actually be signs of illness, call if symptoms worsen (for instance, a low-grade fever reaches 101° F or higher) or linger for more than a couple of days. Same goes if no teeth have come in by 15 months, in which case your paediatrician may want you to take your child to a dentist for an x-ray.

The teething process can last upto two years, but after the first few teeth come in, the pain tends to be much les. Once the first tooth surfaces, try to start cleaning it twice a day by rubbing gently with a cloth. Now, never put your baby to bed with a bottle or nurse her to sleep once her teeth come in since she’s now likely to get cavities. This may be a hard time for your baby, but with a little help, she’ll have a lifetime of happy smiles.

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