Teething symptoms & how to ease them
When do babies start teething? What are the signs to look out for, & which are the best teething remedies?
When do babies start teething?
Most babies cut their first tooth at around six months, but it’s a milestone that is a long time in the making: your baby is born with a full set of 20 milk teeth just below the surface of the gums. Don’t worry though – when those early pearly whites start to poke through, you’ll soon know about it!
What are the signs of teething?
While some milk teeth arrive unannounced, others will appear all guns blazing – with excessive dribbling and irritability sore red gums, flushed cheeks (even just one single flushed cheek), night crying and fitful feeding. Your baby may also chew things frantically and become unusually grumpy. And it can make parents fret as much as babies: it’s no surprise that teething is one of the most searched-for baby terms on Google, with the most common questions being ‘is my baby teething’ (usually preceded by ‘help’!)
Baby teething remedies
Fortunately, there’s lots you can do to help, so try one of these if you’re feeling frantic:
• Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean finger to remove bacteria (studies reveal that mouth bacteria is one of the causes of teething pain)
• "Try giving your baby a teething ring to chew on. Some can be chilled in the fridge, which may be especially soothing on sore gums," advises Boots dental expert Claire Stevens from the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry
• Gel-filled toys that you cool in the fridge can also help ease the discomfort
• If you haven’t got a teething ring or toy, simply give your baby a clean, cold flannel to chew on, suggests Dr Uchenna Okoye, dentist and clinical director of London Smiling Dental Group. A chilled carrot or stick of cucumber can also help soothe sore gums for older babies used to chewing. Just remember to watch your baby at all times, as they can choke on small pieces of food
• Baby teething gels, usually containing a mild local anaesthetic and/or antiseptic ingredients, can be helpful, but are not suitable for babies under two months. Short-term use only. Always read the label
• Some parents find teething granules (often with chamomilla) can be soothing
• Finally, one of the easiest and best things to do, according to Claire Stevens, is simply to distract your baby. "Get out and try gentle activities to take their mind off any discomfort."
How long does teething last?
Teething continues throughout the early years. By the time your baby is five they will have a full set of teeth. Meanwhile, remember that it’s never too early for a baby toothbrush – you should be brushing as soon as the first milk tooth appears. "The key thing is to brush twice a day with a flat smear of fluoride toothpaste – just enough to lightly coat your baby’s toothbrush," says Claire. As well as being important for speech development, milk teeth can also act as placeholders for adult teeth, so you need to do everything you can to look after them.