What is Teething in Babies? Its Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

What is Teething in Babies? Its Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Written By: Poulami Saha | 20 May 2024

The journey of parenthood is paved with milestones, both big and small.
The first joy—and maybe the first (little) disappointment—is to know that your little one starts teething, also known as odontiasis. It’s a natural, common process where your little one’s teeth emerge through the gums, typically arriving in pairs, marking a new stage in their development. But let’s be honest, teething can be rough on both you and your baby. We will explain in this post how you should handle this with a sense of certainty.

When to Expect Milk Teeth?

This is a common question. But sometimes the exact timing of your baby’s teething may be genetic. And, while it may appear improbable, some babies are born with one or two teeth! This happens in approximately 1 in 6,000 to 1 in 800.

In general, teething can begin anywhere between 3 and 36 months, with most babies sprouting their first tooth around six months old. The lower central incisors (the two bottom front teeth) are usually the first to grow out, followed by the upper central incisors. The rest of the baby teeth will follow suit in a specific order over the next few years, with a full set of 20 primary teeth typically coming in by age 3. Moreover, there’s no need to panic if your little one seems a bit behind schedule. If teething hasn’t begun by their first birthday, it’s always a good idea to consult your paediatrician for a quick check-up.

Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For

While not every baby experiences all the symptoms, these are some common signs that your little one might be teething:

Anatomical Causes
  • Increased Drooling: As your baby’s body produces more saliva to help ease the discomfort of the growing tooth, you might notice more drool soaking through bibs and clothes.
  • Chewing on Everything: Teething babies have a natural urge to gnaw on anything they can get their hands on. This helps to soothe the pressure and irritation in their gums.
  • Fussiness and Crying: Discomfort and pain can make your baby cranky. You might experience more frequent crying spells and difficulty settling down.
  • Fluctuations in Sleeping Patterns: Teething can disturb your baby’s sleep, leading to more wakeful nights and early morning wakings.
  • Loss of Appetite: The discomfort in their gums might make your baby less interested in feeding.
  • Mild Fever: A low-grade fever (less than 100.4°F) can sometimes accompany teething. However, a high fever (above 101°F) is not a typical symptom and could indicate an illness.
  • Gum Inflammation: The area where the tooth is erupting might be red, swollen, or tender to the touch.

Helping Your Baby Through Teething Discomfort

Teething can be a trying time for both you and your baby. Follow these strategies to provide relief and comfort:
  • Teething Toys: Provide your baby with safe, age-appropriate teething toys such as rings made from firm rubber or silicone. These can be chilled in the refrigerator (not frozen) to offer a numbing effect on their gums. Go for textured surfaces that provide varied sensations for chewing.
  • Gum Massage: Gently massage your baby’s gums with a clean fingertip. The pressure can help to alleviate discomfort and provide some much-needed relief.
  • Cool Washcloth: A cool, damp washcloth can be soothing when chewed on.
  • Mesh Teether with Frozen Food (6+ Months): Once your baby starts showing signs of solid food introduction (usually around 6 months), you can try a mesh feeder filled with frozen fruits or vegetables. The coolness numbs the gums, and the mesh allows them to safely enjoy the taste without choking.
  • Snoring: Mouth breathing can disturb your sleep cycle, causing irresistible snoring and restlessness.
    Please Note: Always supervise your baby closely while using a mesh feeder and discard any bitten pieces to prevent choking hazards.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relief (Consult Your Pediatrician First): For persistent discomfort, consult your paediatrician about age-appropriate pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. It’s crucial to follow dosage instructions carefully and only administer medication under your paediatrician’s guidance.

Two Common Teething Myths to Debunk

  • “Teething Causes Diarrhea”
    While teething can cause mild digestive upset, it shouldn’t lead to diarrhoea. If your baby experiences diarrhoea alongside teething symptoms, consult your paediatrician to rule out other causes.
  • “Teething Causes Earaches”
    Teething discomfort can sometimes cause fussiness that might be mistaken for an earache. However, teething itself doesn’t directly cause earaches. If you suspect an ear infection, consult your paediatrician.

Caring for Your Baby’s First Teeth

Once those first pearly whites emerge, it’s time to establish a good oral hygiene routine. Here are some basics for brushing your baby’s teeth:
  • Start Early: Even before their first tooth appears, you can get your baby accustomed to having their mouth cleaned. Wipe their gums twice a day with a damp, soft washcloth or a fingertip toothbrush designed for infants. This helps remove bacteria and prepares them for brushing.
  • Choose the Right Tools: Select a soft-bristled infant toothbrush that fits comfortably in your baby’s mouth. Look for a small head size and a handle you can easily grip.
  • A Tiny Dab of Fluoride Toothpaste (After 6 Months): Fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Once your baby has one or two teeth, consult your paediatrician about using fluoride toothpaste. A smear the size of a grain of rice is sufficient.
  • Brushing Techniques: Gently brush your baby’s teeth twice a day, focusing mostly on the gum line and the surfaces of the teeth. Since they won’t be able to spit yet, use a small amount of water and focus on cleaning rather than rinsing.
  • Make it Fun: Sing songs or tell stories while brushing to make it a calming experience.
  • Lead by Example: Let your baby see you brushing your teeth to establish healthy habits early on.

Diet and Habits for Healthy Teeth

  • Say NO to Sugary Drinks: Sugary drinks like juice and soda can contribute to tooth decay. Opt for water as the primary beverage and limit juice intake to occasional small servings during meals.
  • Bedtime Routine: Avoid putting your baby to sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice. The constant presence of sugary liquids can lead to “bottle mouth” or early childhood caries, causing cavities and tooth decay.
  • First Foods and Chewing: As your baby transitions to solid foods, prioritize soft fruits and vegetables that encourage gentle chewing without the risk of choking. This helps develop healthy jaw muscles and prepares them for tougher textures later on.

How Long Does Teething Last?

Teething is not a constant state; it occurs when a tooth is ready to burst through the gums. The majority of baby teeth (primary teeth) emerge by the age of 12 months, followed by molars between 13 and 19 months. By the age of three, most babies have lost all of their baby teeth.

When to See a Dentist?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends scheduling your baby’s first dental visit by their first birthday or within 6 months of their first tooth erupting. These early visits are crucial for establishing a positive association with the dentist and allow for a professional assessment of your baby’s oral health. Regular dental checkups throughout childhood are essential for monitoring development, preventing future problems, and ensuring a healthy, happy smile.

Our Take

Consistency and gentle care are key to establishing good oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime. Don’t hesitate to consult the paediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s teething or overall dental health.

At APEX  Dental clinic in Dubai, we prioritize your child’s oral health with cutting-edge technology and professional dentists. Book an appointment with us today.