On average, a baby’s first tooth appears between 4 and 7 months of age, replacing that adorable toothless grin with a crying, irritable baby.
Although some babies find teething painless, others may become cranky, have sore gums, or even experience disruptions in their usual sleeping and eating patterns.
“Teething can cause some mild discomfort in babies, which can make them seem fussy,” said Dr. Amanda Gogol-Tagliaferro (Dr. GT), a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Fairlawn. “You may also notice drooling or the desire to chew on things. A low-grade temperature that’s not over 101 degrees Fahrenheit can also often occur.”
It can be a tough time for both babies and parents. Try these tips for soothing your baby’s sore gums.
Try giving your baby something safe to chew on, like a rubber teething ring or a cold, wet washcloth. Avoid freezing toys as the extreme cold can be irritating to the gums.
Also, whatever object you choose, make sure it’s not hard enough to bruise the gums and that it can’t break into smaller pieces. In addition, objects should be big enough that babies can’t get the whole thing in their mouths.
You also can try rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a cold washcloth. The pressure can help ease her discomfort.
Some babies prefer cool foods when teething. Parents can try chilled, not frozen, fruit in a mesh bag specially designed for teething.
If your baby is still cranky, ask her doctor about giving her a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies older than 6 months) to ease discomfort.
“Numbing creams or medications that contain the ingredient benzocaine, including Orajel, are not recommended for infants because of a potentially rare, but adverse side effect,” said Dr. GT. “I also do not recommend amber teething necklaces as a rule because of strangulation or choking hazards. Plus, there are currently no evidence-based studies that support that they help alleviate teething pain.”
Keeping new teeth healthy
Proper dental care begins before your daughter’s first tooth appears. Each day, run a clean, damp washcloth over her gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
Once her teeth begin to come in, follow these tips:
- Brush teeth with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s seal of acceptance. (If you’re using baby toothpaste without fluoride, keep it to the same amount because you still want to minimize any toothpaste that is swallowed.)
- Once your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing in between them.
- Around age 2, start teaching your toddler to spit while brushing. Avoid giving water to swish and spit because this may increase the chance of accidentally swallowing toothpaste.
- Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise kids younger than 6 while brushing as they’re more likely to swallow toothpaste.
Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren’t practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby’s teeth.
When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth.
Pocked, pitted or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Severe cases result in cavities and the need to pull all of the front teeth until the permanent ones grow in.
Never let your daughter fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth, and set specific times for drinking because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth.
Once your baby’s 6 months old, she can switch from a bottle to a sippy cup (with a straw or hard spout), which lowers the dental risks related to bottle-feeding.
“Teaching good habits from an early age will lead to good dental hygiene in the long run,” said Dr. GT. “Dental decay in baby teeth may lead to problems with permanent teeth. If baby teeth are lost too early due to decay, the teeth that are left in the mouth may shift and not leave enough room for adult teeth to come in.”