Brace yourself for teething

When does teething start?

The age at which babies get their first teeth varies widely, but most new teeth appear at around the six month mark. Some babies get their first teeth as early as two months (occasionally some babies are even born with one or two teeth), or as late as 12 months. Any time within this range is normal.

Which teeth first?

You can expect the two middle bottom teeth to appear first in most cases, followed by the top two middle teeth and then the next teeth in order laterally, ending with the back molars. By the time your child is about two and a half years old, you can expect them to have about 20 teeth – 10 at the top, and 10 at the bottom.

What are some symptoms of teething?

  • Dribbling. Dribbling increases while your baby is teething, so make sure you gently wipe the excess saliva off baby’s chin to prevent a rash. Keep a bib handy too.
  • Red gums, red cheeks and ear pulling. Inflammation from  he gums as the teeth are erupting can spread to the cheeks and ears. (Ear pulling can also be a sign of an ear infection, so keep watch).
  • Chewing and biting. Teething babies like to chew and bite on things to help numb the pain of a tooth coming through. The counter pressure also helps the tooth cut through the gums.
  • Poor sleep. The pain from cutting a tooth can cause night-time waking so be prepared for a few rough nights.
  • Irritable and fussy. Cutting a tooth is a painful process, so have lots of patience and give lots of cuddles.
  • Change in bowel movements. It is common for stools to become looser during teething due to the extra saliva swallowed. Be sure not to confuse this with diarrhoea which may need medical attention.
  • Poor feeding. The sucking motion can cause extra pain in the gums, so baby might become fussy while feeding for a time.

How to ease the pain of teething

  • Cold teething ring. Anything cold that will help numb the pain is a friend when teething. Put a silicone teething ring or toy in the fridge to cool and give it to baby to chew and suck on. This should help with the inflammation.
  • Cold food. Depending on the age of your baby and how well he/she is taking solids, you could offer baby some cold pureed food to suck on. For example, pureed frozen berries.
  • Counter pressure is also beneficial in helping to numb the gums and alleviate pain. Gently rub a clean finger along baby’s gum line or give baby a teething toy to chew on.
  • Homeopathic remedies. Some people swear by them, others think they don’t work, but they are worth a try. Make sure that the teething powders and gels suggested are sugar and alcohol-free and never put more on than recommended as they can be a choking hazard.
  • Pain relief. Ask your doctor if it is appropriate to give your baby pain relief medication.

Some babies cut their teeth with no fuss at all, but most fuss in some way until the teeth are cut – after all, it’s sore! Hang in there, and remember that it won’t last forever.

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About Author

Grace Nixon

Grace Nixon, BHSc (Midwifery), otherwise known as The Baby Lady, is an Auckland-based newborn specialist. Using her skills and experience gained both as a midwife and nanny over the past 10 years, she helps new parents prepare and adjust to life with their new arrival. She also runs Practical Parenting Antenatal classes that focus on both birth and life at home with a baby. See more at thebabylady.co.nz or practicalparentingantenatal.com.

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