“I think my child my child is teething!” is a very common concern from parents. Originally I was sceptical that teething could result in anything other than mild gum & tooth pain. However the longer I am in practice the more I am convinced that teething can make a child (& parents) very miserable. Some children breeze through teething with no issues but for others teething can be an extremely painful, drawn out process. There is very little published evidence around the side effects of teething, but all those parents can’t be wrong.
Let’s look at the teething process in more detail. Most babies will get their first tooth at around 6-7 months although some children get their first tooth as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months. The age of teething is very hereditary so if either parent got their teeth early or very late this may happen to their baby too. It is worth checking with grandparents to see if they can remember when a parent’s teeth erupted.
Having said that on average the first tooth erupts at about 7 months, symptoms can precede the first tooth by a few weeks. The common symptoms include drooling, a rash on the chin or cheeks, diarrhoea & even a low grade temperature. In severe cases a baby may refuse to eat or drink. This is important to get checked out as young babies can dehydrate if they don’t feed or drink properly for a few days.
The first teeth to erupt are usually the bottom central ones followed by the teeth on either side. However some children get their upper teeth first. These “baby” teeth will fall out by primary school time & will be replaced by permanent teeth at about 6-7 years of age. Teething can be painful so I recommend that parents buy a teething ring & keep it handy in the fridge. Babies that are teething often get significant relief from chomping on a cold teething ring. The other option is a local paste such as Bonjela. If this does not help then parents may have to consider short term Panadol or Neurofen for pain relief.
The Australian Dental Association recommends the first dental check-up at around 12 months of age. It certainly is a good habit to get children to a dentist - particularly if it only involves a “meet and greet” with no procedures. I often get asked about brushing of teeth and toothpaste. Both of these are controversial. Early use of a soft tooth brush can help develop good habits in children. Using small amounts of toothpaste is fine but be aware as some children swallow the paste instead of spitting it out.