If you find yourself in the teething zone – which can occur anytime between four months old and three years old – you don’t have to be stuck there.
Here are some Paediatric Dentist-approved remedies so you and your baby can life your best life, one tooth at a time.
is my baby teething?
Teething occurs when the tooth erupts or breaks through the gum. To most parents, the sudden appearance of their child’s first tooth is a major developmental milestone, and the event is duly recorded in a baby book. We wait months for it. And then it starts, and we can’t wait for it to be over.
There is no “normal” when it comes to the timing of baby teeth eruption. The eruption of baby teeth usually begins around four to eight months old with the eruption of the lower incisors and is complete at around three years old when second molars erupt.
Teething is different for each child, and even for each tooth. Your child might get their first tooth without any issues, but cry and drool for days when their molars come in. Or your baby might drool and fuss for weeks when the first tooth arrives, then have no further discomfort when future teeth arrive.
Teething babies may show one or more of the following symptoms.
- 1. Irritability and crankiness
- 2. More whining less giggling
- 3. Being clingier than usual
- 4. Drooling and dribbling
- 5. Red, swollen gums
- 6. Reduced appetite
- 7. Putting fingers, toys in the mouth
- 8. Gnawing, chewing, even biting things around them
Although the whole tooth eruption process can take an average of two months per tooth, symptoms only tend to last about three or four days. Once the tooth breaks through the gums, the symptoms start to decrease.
Do not be surprised when it happens again. You may experience teething déjà vu up to 20 times as that is the number of baby teeth waiting to erupt!
signs it is more than teething
Teething coincides with normal changes in your baby’s immunity. In pregnancy, the mother’s antibodies are transferred to babies. These antibodies help protect your baby in the first year of life. This starts to wane around the same time as teething.
This, together with behavioural changes as your baby starts to explore their surroundings, increases the chances of catching viral infections which present with symptoms like those reported for teething.
Therefore, if the symptoms last for weeks at a time, or if your baby has a fever, diarrhoea, or a runny nose, it is recommended that you take your baby to see the local GP or Paediatrician.
what can you do to help?
Irritability of children suffering from discomfort and pain during teething periods is a parent’s nightmare. There are scientifically proven ways to soothe and relieve distress experienced by infants and toddlers during teething.
Medications including analgesics would reduce the pain associated with teething but parents are not always comfortable with therapeutic approaches that could cause adverse effects to their child. So what else can you do to help?
Aside from cuddle therapy, teether toys can reduce irritability and crankiness in teething children. Chewing on teethers has been proven to provide relief from gum soreness. The pressure caused by biting teethers can decrease soreness by massaging the gums and overwhelming the sensory receptors, offering a distraction from the pain and discomfort.
Teethers come in many different shapes and sizes. Some are good for young babies to grip easily, such as a teething ring. Others are great for those molars, as they get right to the back of the mouth. They also come in different materials, some safer than others.
Food-grade or medical-grade silicone teethers provide risk-free and secure comfort to babies. They do not contain hazardous chemicals such as BPA, polyvinyl chloride, lead, cadmium, latex and phthalates which are found in plastic teethers.
Studies have found these toxic compounds to produce hormonal abnormalities, resulting in neurological, developmental, and reproductive harm. Furthermore, silicone has the benefit of being hygienic as it inhibits the growth of bacteria, mould and fungus, and is easy to clean, making it a suitable and safe material to chew on.
Silicone teethers are unaffected by temperature fluctuations so they have the advantage of being able to be refrigerated for a cooling effect.
Cold teethers bring the greatest relief as biting or sucking cold objects cause a numbing effect and reduce swelling of the gums, helping to soothe them. Avoid freezing teethers as they may bruise your baby’s delicate gums. Instead place them in the refrigerator to make it cool before giving it to your baby to use.
There are many other reasons why babies like to put teethers in their mouth to chew on. It is not always for relief when their teeth are erupting.
From an early age, babies will try to put things into their mouth. It is part of child development and forms part of bub’s exploration of their environment. All that mouthing and munching encourages a baby to move their tongue inside their mouth. This gives the child awareness of their mouth which further helps to lay the foundation for learning phonetics and speech development as babies begin to babble while learning to say their first words.
Since babies love to chew on things, especially when they are teething, parents should not be surprised if they bite on everything that they should not be chewing on - blankets, edges of baby books, keys, their fingers, or even their parents' fingers. So instead of becoming your baby’s chew toy, give them a teether, it’s a safer alternative for both you and bub!
While most people think that teethers are only necessary for the first few teeth, the molar eruption can also be very painful. So don’t be surprised if you find that baby needs a teether again when their molars begin to appear near age three.
how to pick the right teether for bub
Most parents will find that their little one will have a favourite teether. So when first shopping for a teether, it may be a good idea to pick up a few different ones to give bub some options.
Also, it is good to keep the following features in mind as you try out teethers:
It is important to ensure that the teether you pick is safe and meets Australian Standards: AS_NZS 8124.1_2019.
Food-grade or medical-grade silicone teethers do not contain toxic compounds like BPA, PVC, lead, cadmium, latex and phthalates which can be harmful for your baby’s growth and development. They also have the advantage of being hygienic and hypo-allergenic.
No one wants to buy a teether that needs to be replaced every month. Look for teethers made of sturdy silicone that will not fall apart after a few uses. Keep in mind, babies can be quite rough when gnawing teethers because they are trying to soothe their gums.
Considering that a teether spends a lot of time in your child’s mouth, you want to make sure that cleaning teethers doesn’t become an impossible task.
Look for teethers that are dishwasher safe or can be sterilised by boiling or with steam in a microwave. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the teethers before giving it to your baby.
Teethers come in various shapes, sizes and designs. When choosing the right teether, it is important to check whether the teether is lightweight and your baby can easily grip it, whether there are enough textures that can soothe their gums, and to ensure that they do not have any small parts attached which can become a choking hazard.
Teething necklaces are a choking and strangulation hazard and are not recommended. Also, it best to avoid using teething rings which are filled with liquids other than water as your baby’s chewing could easily break the ring causing the liquid to spill in their mouth.
These are all important features to keep in mind. Make sure you watch over your child when they use their teethers.
Many parents are concerned that continuous use of teethers can affect the growth and position of erupting baby teeth.
Since all the baby teeth have usually erupted by age three, bub is unlikely to need teethers past this age. Any such effects caused by continuous and prolonged use of baby devices like teethers, and pacifiers are likely to spontaneously resolve by cessation of their use by this age.
In fact, by giving a baby something to chew on, you can prevent them from chewing on things they shouldn’t. For example, babies may start putting their fingers or thumbs in their mouth to relieve discomfort caused by teething. This has the potential to develop into a habit which may prove difficult to stop and may have adverse effects on dental development.
Once teeth eruption begins, it is important to ensure that excellent oral hygiene and safe dietary practices are adopted to prevent tooth decay and maintain oral health. Teethers and other baby devices should not be dipped in honey or other sweetened liquids in attempt to comfort your grumpy baby. Similarly, sugar-containing teething rusks and biscuits should be avoided.
Do not hesitate to bring your baby in for a dental consultation if you have any concerns or would like to explore pharmacological options to soothe and calm your teething bub. Remember, teething troubles won’t last forever, and it leads to an exciting milestone and a beautiful smile!
about the author:
Dr Janita Shah obtained her Doctor of Clinical Dentistry in Paediatric Dentistry from the University of Melbourne. She has 10 years of combined experience in general and paediatric dentistry in public and private practice.
Janita works within an expert team at Lucas Dental Care providing individually tailored comprehensive dental care for children and special needs patients. This includes preventative care plans to help protect their teeth for life. Janita aims to help children and their parents develop a more positive attitude towards dentistry. She is known for her gentle, bubbly, and friendly nature which makes her great with children and parents.
Janita also works as a specialist paediatric dentist at the Royal Dental Hospital and has a teaching role at the University of Melbourne. She is a member of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons, Australian and New Zealand Society of Paediatric Dentistry, the Australasian Academy of Paediatric Dentistry, and the Australian Dental Association.
In her spare time, Janita enjoys spending time with her young daughter, travel and swimming.
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