Teething 101: what to expect and tips to help soothe the pain

By Dr. Mark Psillakis, Bupa

When your child is around six months old, they will usually begin teething. Here is a quick guide on what to expect, with some tips on how to help soothe your bub’s teething pain.

Teething timeline

Your baby's first tooth will usually appear any time between three months and 12 months of age. The bottom middle teeth tend to appear first, followed a month or so later by the two upper middle teeth. By the age of around three years, they should have all 20 teeth.

What are the signs of teething?

While some babies and toddlers may breeze through teething with barely a whimper, for other babies and toddlers it can be a painful time. Here are some of the most common symptoms to look out for:

  • Rubbing an ear or earlobe
  • Reddened cheeks
  • Excessive dribbling
  • Slight temperature
  • Teething rash around mouth and chin
  • Crying and irritability
  • Waking during the night
  • Refusing food and/or milk

Tips to help ease their pain

There are lots of ways you can help sooth teething bubs and toddlers including:

  1. Teething rusks
  2. Cold fruit or vegetables.Try carrots or frozen banana pieces. Ensure that the chunks of fruit or vegetables are large enough, so that there is no danger of your child inhaling or swallowing them
  3. Moisten or freeze a clean cloth for your child to chew on. This can help cool down hot and swollen gums
  4. Put water in a baby bottle and freeze the bottle upside down (so the water is frozen at the nipple). Give it to your baby when he or she gets fussy and let them chew on the cold, comforting nipple for a while
  5. Gently rub a melting piece of ice over the gums, this can help anaesthetise the gums and relieve discomfort
  6. Distract your child with a game like “peek-a-boo” to help take their mind off their discomfort
  7. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can help. However, never give aspirin to anyone under the age of 20 years, as this can cause Reye’s syndrome. Anaesthetising gels such as Bonjela should be used sparingly as they have chemical components that infants should not get too much of

Caring for your baby's first tooth

When your child's first tooth appears, it's time to begin some good dental habits. The Australian Dental Association (ADA) recommends that parents use a baby's toothbrush, with a small head and soft, rounded bristles, to clean your baby’s teeth.

Up to the age of 18 months, your baby’s teeth should be brushed with plain water twice a day - morning and evening. After 18 months you can use a small smear of low-fluoride toothpaste. Just remember to teach your child how to spit it out afterwards as swallowing too much fluoride can affect your child’s developing teeth!

Your child will probably need your help with brushing their teeth until the age of 7 or 8 years so be patient and supportive, this will help them develop good dental habits for life.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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