Spotting the teething gremlin

Did you know that your baby’s first teeth start to develop before they’re even born? Scary stuff especially as you only really stop to think about it when they start teething – and boy can they tell you it’s time!

When your baby begins teething, there is no set pattern on when it will begin, how long it will take and how painful it will be. Teeth will start to show through the gums usually when they reach about 6-9 months old but for one baby cutting a tooth might happen overnight without pain, while another might have to go through a long, drawn out and painful experience. In fact, sometimes a visible rise or lump in the gum can be seen for several weeks, while sometimes there may be no visible clues at all until the tooth actually appears.

Where it starts…
Your baby’s first tooth will more than likely appear in the middle of the lower jaw, followed by their bottom front teeth, their top front teeth and then the top and bottom incisors either side. From a timing perspective, as a guideline it is as follows:

Front teeth (central/lateral incisors): emerge at around 6-9 months
Middle teeth (cuspids or canine): emerge at around 16-18 months
Back teeth: First molars emerge at 12-14 months; second molars emerge at 18-30 months.

Their complete set of 20 baby teeth will usually have come through by the age of 2½ years.

What to look out for
Each baby is different but while your little one is teething, gums may become red, one cheek might flush. Your child may also dribble, gnaw and chew a lot, or just become fretful. Sometimes sleep and eating patterns are disrupted. Other symptoms could include: pain, irritability, coughing, chin rash, diarrhoea, low-grade fever and even a runny nose.

Some experts disagree about whether teething actually causes symptoms, given that, during teething, babies frequently put things in their mouths to soothe their gums, so they’re coming into contact with more viruses and other germs.

No matter the cause, it just important to identify them and don’t worry, there are lots of ways you can help make teething easier for your child.

Teething tips
* Give your little one plenty of extra cuddles to help them feel better

*It can be helpful to give your child something hard to chew on
– Teething rings that can be cooled in the fridge can be particularly soothing
– Look for a teether that is designed to fit little mouths, and little hands. It should be extra soft, with lots of ridges and bumps to help ease the pain of those first front teeth and of course, change teethers as the stages of teething develop
– Rub a clean finger gently but firmly over your baby’s sore gums to temporarily ease the pain

*Teething gels containing local anaesthetics can provide some pain relief for sore gums. These must not be given to babies under 4 months old and always consult your doctor before use

*Sugar-free paracetamol suspensions, specially designed for babies and children, can also help – but be sure to follow the instructions according to your child’s age

Teething can be a painful experience for both your baby and you as parents, as it’s always difficult to see your bundle of joy in pain. However, it is also an exciting time as they are entering the next phase of development. Teething is unavoidable; the best you can do is identify the symptoms and try to make the process as easy as possible. Next step… bring on the tooth fairy!

*This article is the first exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr. Diana du Plessis is the Breastfeeding Consultant and spokesperson for Phillips Avent South Africa. She obtained a B.Soc.Sc (Hons) at the University of the Free State, after which she worked as an operating room registered nurse in the Universitas and National Hospitals in Bloemfontein, receiving the Diploma in Operating Room Technique in 1978. She commenced her academic career in the Department of Nursing (UFS) in 1982 and holds diplomas in Nursing Administration (cum laude), Nursing Education and Community Health Nursing (cum laude) while being employed in the Department of Nursing at the University of the Free State. Later she obtained M.Cur and D.Cur in Midwifery and Neonatology from the University of Johannesburg. Dr du Plessis is in private midwifery clinical practice for the past 19 years.

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