A baby’s first tooth usually arrives at around six months of age but all babies are different and teeth can arrive earlier or later. Some teeth emerge without causing any pain but others can case soreness, redness and enough discomfort to cause both you and the baby many a fretful afternoon or sleepless night.
- Sore gums & redness
- Flushed cheek/s
- Chewing a lot
What causes teething?
Babies generally get their first tooth at around six months old, but very occasionally a baby is born with a tooth.The pain occurs because the tooth has to cut its way through the gum.
The first teeth to appear are the two central teeth in the lower jaw, called the incisors. These are followed by the two upper incisors a month or so later. The other teeth will appear periodically over the next year or so and eventually your baby will have 20 milk teeth. Most children have all their milk teeth by the age of two and a half. Milk teeth begin to fall out at about six years of age and are replaced by permanent teeth.
How to treat Teething
Teething gels containing the local anaesthetic lidocaine can be rubbed onto the gums to ease pain but should not be applied too often.
If teething seems really painful a baby can be given the recommended dose of an infant suspension containing the analgesics paracetamol or ibuprofen. Aspirin, in any form, including teething gels containing choline salicylate, must not be used.
All teething gels and infant analgesic suspensions are available from your local pharmacy without the need for a prescription. If your child starts teething particularly early, ask your pharmacist for advice as some preparations are unsuitable for young or very small babies.
If you have been using teething gels containing choline salicylate (Bonjela, Bonjela Cool Mint) previously, then stop using them as they are no longer recommended in children under 16. Instead, switch to Bonjela Teething Gel that contains lidocaine instead of choline salicylate.
It is important that you distinguish the symptoms of teething (irritability, dribbling, flushed cheeks) from other signs of illness. Teething will not cause a high temperature. If a baby has a fever and/or diarrhoea, or is pulling at his or her ears (a sign of a middle ear infection) then consult a doctor.
Alternative Remedies & Self-help
- Ice works wonders on numbing pain and decreasing swelling. You can give your baby a cold wet flannel to chew on or refrigerate a teething ring to help sooth your baby’s gums. Freezing teething rings is not advised - this makes them too hard and liable to cause gum damage.
- Cooled raw fruit such as apple or carrot can also ease teething pain (in babies old enough to take solids). Stay close by though in case of choking and ensure the fruit is not too small.
- Sugar-free, cooled drinks (ideally just water) can also help soothe sore gums and may ease excessive dribbling.
- Pressure applied to the gums can also ease teething pain. A teether may do the trick or you can rub your child’s gum with a clean finger.
- Some parents use homeopathic teething remedies. It’s unclear whether or not these are effective.