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Signs your baby is teething, and how to help them through it

Zofishan Umair

Zofishan Umair

Zofishan is a journalist, humour columnist, and a mum who has survived nappy explosions mid-air. She has over a decade of experience writing for print and online publications and is currently working on her first book.
Created on May 01, 2024 · 5 mins read
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You’ve been bitten a few times now and the bites were painful! Even your cat understands these signs of teething and has started avoiding him—maybe because Junior here tried to chew on her furry, white tail.

Oh, and then there’s the clinginess! It makes you feel like a sloth mama whose baby lives on her 24/7 for the first 12 months. Is this your life now?

Baby teeth 101:


It’s so exciting to see your baby reach milestones as they grow, and that first baby tooth is a big one. That smile with their first baby teeth warms your heart, but teething symptoms and teething pain can make this a tough stage for babies and parents to navigate.

When do babies start teething? What are the primary teeth? How can I get him to stop sinking his baby teeth into my arm? What about tooth decay and do we start brushing with fluoride toothpaste? How do I care for my baby’s teeth?

Here’s baby teeth 101:


When do babies start showing signs of teething?


Most babies will typically show signs of teething between 4-7 months, whereas some babies may not pop their first tooth until after their first birthday. This means there’s a wide range of what is considered ‘normal.’ (Really, in this case, everything goes–except the biting).


How long does teething last?


Milk teeth, also known as primary teeth, baby teeth, first teeth, and deciduous teeth (they’ve got quite a few names), make little debuts on and off till around 2 years old when their second molars erupt (for some children, it’s actually 2.5 years).

When do permanent teeth or adult teeth, come?


Infants will have 20 primary teeth (first teeth) by the time they turn 30 to 36 months old. These primary teeth will shed or fall out by the age of 12 and be replaced with permanent teeth or adult teeth.

Do I need a teething chart?


A teething chart can help you understand the order in which tooth eruptions occur.

A baby starts teething from the front to the back. Two central incisors (bottom front teeth) are the first new teeth, followed by central incisors and lateral incisors (top front teeth), followed by the lower lateral incisors.

The top and bottom second molars are the last to come. Fortunately, tooth eruption happens over time, so you get some much-needed breaks, and they last until shortly before a child turns 3.

The exact age at which a tooth erupts or falls out will vary from child to child. The baby teeth chart below, showing the 10 top teeth and 10 bottom teeth offers a rough guide:

What are the common signs of teething in babies?


Baby teething can often feel like a real guessing game for many parents. Here are some teething signs and some tips to survive the madness.

While some infants display all the common symptoms of teething, others may show only 1 or 2—or none.

1. Excessive drooling


All babies drool, but if you notice their bib soaking wet, it’s a sign of first teeth coming in. Some babies even get a rash on their chin and neck from this excessive saliva.

Tip: Apply a nourishing barrier cream to help treat the rash. Change their bib/top and wipe their chin regularly.

2. Red and/or swollen gums


Another sign is red or swollen gums. That’s because before the crown of a tooth appears, that part of your baby’s gums has already been broken down by hormones.

Tip: Teething toys can help soothe swollen gums. Always consult a pediatrician and dentist before using a pain reliever or oral gel.

3. Crankiness


Expect them to be cranky and upset if a tooth eruption is bothering them.

4. Sloth Mode On


If your baby’s teeth are popping, expect them to cling on to you! This may make tasks feel impossible, but all they want is a little comfort. Some babies even choose to nurse more.

5. Red rosy cheeks


Some babies’ cheeks will get red rosy cheeks, often appearing on the side of the new tooth.

6. Biting/chewing


You know it. The cat knows it. Every toy he owns has felt it. Biting is a sure-fire way to tell a baby tooth is near! Offer teething rings, dummies, or a cool washcloth to ease the discomfort.

Tip: Make sure you keep anything out of their reach that could cause them harm or that is a choking hazard.

7. Pulling or rubbing their ears


Some babies will pull at their ears or rub them. This is because the pain in the gums can travel to the cheek and ear through the shared nerve pathways.

This can also often be a sign of an ear infection, so be sure to keep an eye on your baby, and if you are concerned, see your doctor.

8. Soft stool or nappy rash


Nappies can be a real giveaway. Stool is softer than usual due to the increased saliva production during this time.

Nappy rashes during teething are quite common so don’t skip out on the nappy rash or barrier cream.

9. Fussy eating or refusing to eat


Some babies become fussier than usual and will either nurse or prefer cold foods. Cold purees, yoghurt, cucumbers, or frozen fruit in mesh food bags are great options to help soothe their sore gums.

10. Nighttime waking


Many experts disagree on whether teething affects your baby’s sleep or not. But if they suddenly wake during the night and there doesn’t appear to be any other reason, a new tooth could be the culprit.

Raising a baby count


As your little count builds up on his tooth count, here’s some more important information:

  • If your 18-month baby’s first tooth hasn’t made a show, consult a pediatric dentist.
  • Clean your baby’s gums using a clean finger with a wet washcloth or piece of gauze at least once a day.
  • A low-fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children under 6 years. You can ask your doc for fluoride varnish to prevent cavities.
  • Teething may cause a slight fever but it doesn’t cause high fevers. In fact, assuming it does, can lead to a delay in seeking care for infections.

Teething can be a difficult stage for both babies and parents, but hang in there! And just avoid getting bitten!

Sources


https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/dummies-and-comforters

https://www.chla.org/blog/advice-experts/your-infant-teething-know-signs-and-symptoms

https://www.seattlechildrens.org/conditions/a-z/teething/

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