Your baby’s first tooth

The appearance of your baby’s first teeth is a very exciting step in his development – there’s little cuter than a happy baby giving a big, toothy grin. How do you know if your baby’s teeth are on their way in, and what should you do to make the process as fuss-free as possible?

How can I tell if my baby is teething?
From when a baby is about four months old, mothers tend to blame a range of symptoms on teething – and, indeed, drooling, irritability and a mild increase in body temperature are some of the signs that your baby is getting his first teeth.

There is some conflict of opinion about what symptoms are linked with teething, however. In a study carried out on 125 children by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, USA, for instance, facial rash was cited as a symptom, but many dentists and doctors believe this rash to be the result of a virus rather than teething. Increased chewing and biting, and even excessive dribbling, similarly, are thought by some specialists to be simply developmental steps rather than teething symptoms.

Still, there are several undeniable behaviours associated with teething, including increased clinginess, gum-rubbing, sucking, wakefulness and ear-rubbing; and, of course, if your baby’s gums look swollen or inflamed, that’s a pretty sure-fire sign.

Many babies display no symptoms at all, however, and get their milk teeth with relatively little pain or fuss.

What isn’t linked with teething?
Symptoms thought not to be directly linked with teething (although thought by many to be so) include congestion, disturbed sleep, diarrhoea, nappy rash and other rashes elsewhere on the body, coughing and vomiting. Sometimes your baby may have a barely discernible increase in temperature just before a tooth comes in, but if his body temperature rises sharply or he starts running a fever, you need to take him to a doctor. In fact, any of these symptoms, especially if they continue for more than a day, require medical advice.

How can I make my baby more comfortable when he’s teething?

  • Teething gels, which contain a mild local anaesthetic that numbs the gums, are handy but shouldn’t be used excessively. Remember to make sure your hands are clean when you apply the gel. Put a small amount on your finger and rub it gently into your baby’s gums.
  • Give your baby plenty of extra attention, and particularly lots of close physical contact.
  • A cold teething ring or a clean, cold washcloth for your baby to chew on might help. Don’t put gel-filled teething rings in the freezer (but the fridge is fine) or dip them in honey or anything similarly sugary before you give them to your baby.
  • Sugar-free teething rusks are a messy proposition but many mothers swear by them.
  • If your baby is drooling a lot, protect his chin and cheeks with a little barrier cream to prevent redness and rawness.
  • If your baby seems to be really battling, give him a dose of sugar-free paediatric paracetamol suspension. If this doesn’t work, something else may be wrong, and you should take him to the doctor.
  • Homoeopathic remedies help some babies – chamomilla in drop form is a popular remedy.
How did you deal with your baby's teething?

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