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Baby teething: Signs, symptoms, treatments and remedies

Teething refers to the time when baby teeth - also called milk or primary teeth - appear. The loss of that cute, toothless grin is a big step towards being able to eat solid food. Generally, teething occurs between 6 months and 24 months of age. While this process is uneventful in some children, for others it causes quite a bit of discomfort and irritability.

Signs of teething

Babies develop at different rates. In rare cases, some babies are born with one or more teeth (called natal teeth) or may have teeth that emerge within the first 30 days of life (called neonatal teeth), others may still not have any teeth by their first birthday.

Look for the bottom front teeth (incisors) coming through first, usually followed by the top front teeth.

Symptoms of teething

Symptoms of teething in a baby can include:

  • Sore, red gums around where the tooth is coming through
  • Increased irritability
  • Placing objects or fingers in the mouth and biting down on them
  • Increased saliva or dribbling
  • Loss of appetite or becoming choosy about foods
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Restlessness
  • Disturbed sleep

These symptoms can usually be soothed at home but seek medical advice if you have concerns.

Ear pulling may be a sign of teething but may also indicate a possible ear infection. Seek medical advice if you are not sure.

Teething does not usually result in fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea. If your child experiences these problems, seek medical advice.

Teething treatments

What can I do to ease teething pain?

Self-care at home

Under supervision, give baby something hard to chew on. A special teething ring is an option but a crust of bread, breadstick or peeled carrot may work as well. Biting down on a clean, wet, cold flannel may also be effective. Teething rings can be cooled in the fridge but should not be frozen. Even if baby keeps dropping them, teething rings should not be tied around a baby's neck. Be careful to avoid prolonged contact between your child's gums and cold objects and never put frozen objects in their mouth as these can cause burns. Also, never put anything into a child's mouth that might cause them to choke.

Teething biscuits and frozen bananas are not recommended. These objects promote tooth decay and may cause your child to choke. Don't dip teething rings in anything sugary. Most rusks should be avoided because of their sugar content. Even new baby teeth need to be protected from decay caused by sugar.

A cool sugar-free drink can help to soothe a baby's gums. Water is best.

Try to distract a fussy, teething baby by playing.

An infant's gums may feel better when gentle pressure is placed on them. Try massaging the baby's gums with a clean finger or the back of a small cold spoon.

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