Baby Teeth and Teething
First and foremost: are baby teeth even important?
It’s easy (and very common) to think that baby teeth don’t matter especially since they will be replaced by adult teeth in the future.
However, this is far from true! Baby teeth are critical for function so your child can eat and speak, aesthetics, but also because they maintain the space for the underlying adult teeth. If your child loses their baby teeth prematurely, it can contribute toward crowding and orthodontic issues in the future. Infection in baby teeth can also cause damage to the adult teeth growing beneath.
Some of the baby teeth that your child gets at 2 may not fall out until they are close to 12 years old. That’s a very long time to hold onto a tooth!
Every parent knows (or soon finds out!) that the teething process is one that can be very frustrating, tiring and drawn out. Even as a dentist myself, it took a long time for me to clue onto the fact that my daughter had begun teething and wasn’t just being irritable for no reason!
In the midst of it all, it can feel never ending, but be reassured that it doesn’t last forever and that eventually your little one will find their groove as they begin to pop out tooth after tooth.
What are some common signs of teething?
- Swelling of the gums or “lumpy” gums
- May be able to feel something hard or see something white underneath the gum
- Generalised irritability which may affect eating and sleeping
- Tugging or pulling of the ear especially on the side the tooth is coming through
- Dribbling which can cause a skin rash around the mouth or chin
- Flushed cheeks
- Increased chewing and gumming of fists, fingers, or teething toys
- Change in bowel motions or colour (often becomes green due to increased saliva)
- Low-grade fever
It is important to point out that if your child is demonstrating multiple signs of sickness (high fever, cough, vomiting) that this is not likely to be related to teething. The medical and dental research suggests that there is not a link between teething and fevers. However, in my experience, babies often tend not to sleep or eat as well as normal when they are teething which may increase their susceptibility to contracting viruses going around. Therefore, we always recommend keeping a close eye on them and if you’re worried to get them checked by your family doctor.
How long does teething take?
Unfortunately, like most things, every child is different and doesn’t always work to our desired timelines! Some children seem to breeze through the teething process (this definitely was not my daughter) while others seem to struggle with every new tooth that appears.
By around 2.5 to 3 years of age, your little one will have popped out 20 teeth! It’s important to remember that signs and symptoms of teething may start months to weeks before the teeth appear. The movement and pressure beneath the gums, coupled with the actual cutting of the tooth through the gum, tends to be the most painful and irritating part of the process.
What can i do to help my baby through teething?
Here are some of our recommendations – it can take a little bit of time to figure out what is helpful for your child so don’t be disheartened if they don’t take to all (or any) of these suggestions:
- Teething toys – particularly rubber or silicone based – that can be put in the fridge (not freezer) to help soothe sore gums.
- Frozen breastmilk, formula or fruit purees in a mesh or silicone strainer.
- Refrigerating a clean washcloth and letting your baby chew on it to relive pain.
- Sugar-free teething biscuits or rusks.
- Over-the-counter analgesics – paracetamol and ibuprofen can be helpful but should only be taken in consultation with your physician or dentist as per their directive.
Here are some things to try and avoid:
- Teething gels – it can be very difficult to monitor how much your child is swallowing leading to potentially detrimental effects on their overall health if too much is consumed.
- Amber necklaces – these can be a choking hazard with little evidence to support their use.
The most important thing during the journey of teething, and parenthood in general, is to be kind to yourself and to your little one! It’s not easy but it won’t be forever!