Is your baby teething? When the baby's first teeth start appearing, it can cause painful, itching gums and general discomfort.
Babies usually get their first teeth around the age of six months, but it can vary. Some babies already have teeth when they are born, while others get them after their first birthday.
The two bottom front teeth usually appear first, and the two upper front teeth follow shortly after this. Then the two more teeth appear on either side of the first ones, first at the top and then at the bottom.
In total, the baby gets 20 milk teeth which will remain for a few years.
Signs that your baby is teething
Infants react to teething in different ways. Some hardly notice it, while others experience severe discomfort.
Signs that your baby is teething:
• The baby puts its hands in its mouth.
• The baby starts drooling.
• The baby is grizzly and fretful.
• The baby has a slight temperature.
How you can help your baby
If your baby becomes distressed during teething, here are some things you can try:
• Brush your baby's gums with a children's toothbrush when its teeth start appearing. This also gets your infant used to tooth brushing.
• Give your baby a teething ring to chew on. Some teething rings can be chilled in the fridge for added relief.
• If your baby has started eating solid food, try giving it a rusk to chew on.
• This helps the breastfeeding process by increasing the infant's liquid intake. If the baby bites your nipple during breastfeeding, try to keep calm. Say "no" calmly but firmly, interrupt the feeding for a moment, and then continue. If it happens again, do the same thing.
Introducing tooth brushing
As soon as the first tooth appears, it's time to get the baby toothbrush out. Although some infants love tooth brushing, most parents find their child very resistant to it, at least for a while. Even if your baby only sucks or chews on the brush to begin with, it will get used to having it in its mouth. It is important to establish tooth brushing as a routine that feels secure and familiar to the baby.
To begin with, you might try brushing your infants teeth while it is lying on the changing table or in bed. When your baby gets older, it is usually easiest to sit them on your knee while you brush their teeth.
Experiment until you find what works best for both of you.
Brushing your baby's teeth – 8 useful tips
• Brush your baby's teeth every morning and evening.
• Use a soft toothbrush.
• Use a fluoride toothpaste for children. Use a quantity of toothpaste the size of the baby's fingernail.
• Brush the teeth on both the inside and the outside.
• Let your baby hold the toothbrush.
• Sing a tooth brushing song.
• Put your baby in front of a mirror so it can see what is happening.
• Brush your baby's teeth at times when it is not too tired and fretful.
If your child knocks out or damages a tooth
The milk teeth are gradually replaced by 32 permanent teeth including a row of new molars. The permanent teeth erupt from the age of about 6 to about 13 or 14.
If your child hits their teeth against something, it's best to see a dentist even if they're only milk teeth. Sometimes a knock can damage the underlying tooth, but this may not be discovered until years later. If you have child insurance, it will only be valid later if the damage has been documented.
Further reading: Baby carrier, sling or wrap