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Teething and pain relief

When do your baby's first teeth appear and how can you help ease your child's pain.

Posted: 11 August 2009
by Laura Lee Davies

Although the arrival of two tiny white dots on the bottom row of your baby’s gums often seems like an exciting milestone on your child’s way to walking, talking, graduating from college, becoming a high court judge and so on, the experience of teething is often no fun for either parent or child.
However, whilst it’s easy to imagine why a baby cries in agony as these little molars and incisors begin to push their way through, don’t think it’s going to be non-stop pain from the first moment until the last. Whilst many people claim the bigger teeth hurt more, often, by the time your toddler’s mouth is sprouting these larger teeth, he or she will be able to cope with the pain in different ways and be more easily comforted.

What happens when?

Mothercare Hard and Cooling Teething Fruits, 2 pack, £3.99
Although, in very rare cases, some babies will start teething much earlier, most babies begin teething at around six months. The biggest downside to this is that is can coincide with weaning – which now tends to start at six months as opposed to the previously recommended four months – so that all the big trails, tribulations and new challenges in your baby’s experience, are going on in his or her mouth.
The central incisors, at the front on the bottom, are the first to come through, followed by the top incisors and then the teeth either side. This usually all happens between six and 14 months and, while some babies will sprout a few in quick succession, others will take their time. There is no strict timetable and you shouldn’t worry if you know another child of the same age who has four gleaming gnashers before your child has any.
Not surprisingly, the biggest teeth – at the back on the top and bottom – are the last to come out and should appear between the second and third birthdays. In total, your baby will have 20 ‘milk’ teeth.
The milk teeth begin to fall out naturally some time after your child’s fifth or sixth birthday. So long as your child does not have an excessively sugary diet (or drink too much fruit juice), it is unlikely that his or her milk teeth will need fillings and they will fall out one by one when the mouth is ready for the next tooth to come through. Milk teeth are replaced by the second set of teeth he or she will have into adulthood. The last milk teeth to go are the ones that were last to arrive (the molars at the back), which usually fall out by the time your child is 12 years old.

What are the signs of teething?
Some babies will just be a little irritable, but usually there will be days when the teething gets to your child more than others.
Red cheeks, dribbling (and therefore sometimes coughing when they are on their backs and dribbling), chewing on anything they can find including their hands, ear pulling, being generally out of sorts, runny nappies and sometimes a rash on their bottom, being off their food, and sore-looking gums are the main common signs for teething.
Some babies get symptoms rather like a cold and might even have a runny nose. They may be prone to small colds between six and 12 months anyway, and this coincides with the time they will suffer from their first bouts of teething.
Some babies may also have a raised temperature, although there is some disagreement among heath professionals as to whether this is a cause of teething or, again, of minor colds which can also afflict growing babies.

What can you do to ease your baby’s suffering?
Each baby is different and it’s worth bearing in mind all kinds of remedies to ease your baby when he or she is teething as what works for one baby might not for another, or might work when your baby is teething with less or more need for pain relief. DON’T give your baby sugary biscuits to chew on as, even before the teeth come up, it is possible to create bad habits for sweet tastes and to begin the process of tooth decay.

  • Feeding - For some babies, breastfeeding is a great source of comfort when they are teething. If your baby wakes at night because he or she is teething, a feed may quickly soothe them back to sleep. But make sure if this is the case, that your baby doesn’t fall back into a routine of waking for comfort feeds during the night when the teething period has passed.
    Some babies hate feeding when the sucking aggravates the pain. If so, make sure your baby stays hydrated by giving a feed soon after a bout of teething has passed, or by feeding small amounts of cool boiled water on a spoon in the meantime.

  • Give him or her something to chew on - Some people recommend a carrot that has been in the fridge, or even a frozen bagel to chew on. Something chilled can be good as it cools the gums, but make sure something frozen isn’t going to give your child a ‘burn’ from being too cold.
    You can offer a teething ring which has been kept in the fridge, but make sure you keep it clean and that it isn’t leaking (many have fluid inside).

  • Rub the gums - Rub your (clean!) fingers on the baby’s gums. This gives him or her something soft and familiar to chew on at the same time. You can buy teething gels and powders (health shops and many pharmacies have natural alternatives) to ease the pain, which works for some babies.

  • Pain relief medicines - Used sparingly, medicines like Calpol or Nurofen for Children (NOT adult Nurofen), can help ease the pain and also bring down a temperature. If you are not sure, you can ask your doctor about these or get the GP to prescribe an infant paracetamol. However, most pharmacists should be able to guide you responsibly, without you having to go to your GP.

Most babies will encounter some bad teething bouts, but there will be days when it’s only from changing a nappy or seeing very rosy cheeks, that you notice your baby has some teeth coming through.
Teething can bring them down or disrupt sleeping habits, but if your baby is generally unwell for a longer period of time (more than a few days) then check in with your GP or health visitor.

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Discuss this story

My 9 month old boy Rhys has 6 teeth...4 top and 2 bottom. He seems to be chomping to the side now. He has suffered with temperatures and sickness with almost every tooth so far and goes off his food. Aside from the usual Dentinox Gel, Ambersol, Powders etc and Calpol has anyone got any other tips or miracle suggestions as the poor thing really suffers and cries out loads in the night....

Posted: 01/08/2006 at 12:56

a few years ago i tried a very small dribble of whisky in a nine ounce bottle and it worked she slept all xmasd evening after we had all listened to her all day long

Posted: 07/12/2006 at 15:49

Hi Sue & Stacey,

I have attached an article (above) on teething and things you can do to ease the pain of it all.

I hope you find this useful!

Good luck.

Monica x
(ThinkBaby Production)

Posted: 07/12/2006 at 16:35

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