For some babies teething is a painful process, while for others the arrival of their first teeth causes only minor discomfort.
Once these first teeth have appeared you should make an appointment for your baby to visit the dentist.
Although your baby’s teeth began to develop around six to eight weeks after conception, they usually don’t make an appearance in the gums until she reaches four to six months of age.
The first signs of teething are often a red area on the cheek, excessive dribbling and chewing on the fingers.
Your baby may also be irritable and unsettled and she may not feed as well as usual. Some babies start rubbing at the ear on the side where the tooth is coming through.
Sometimes, some or all of these signs are accompanied by nappy rash. If your baby has a high temperature (above 37.5°C), diarrhoea or you suspect she has earache, don’t just assume that this is caused by teething. It could be a sign of illness, so you should always check with your doctor.
There is no way of knowing how long a tooth will take to come through. Your baby may show signs of teething for just a few days before a tooth appears in her gum, another time she may be teething for weeks before a tooth can be seen.
The first teeth usually cause the most trouble so you may find that the next teeth come through without causing too many problems.
At around a year old, your baby’s molars, the big teeth at the back of her mouth will start to appear and these can cause a lot of discomfort. By the time your baby is two-and-a-half years of age all her first, or ‘milk’ teeth should be through.
Rubbing the sore area of the gum with your finger or the back of a cold teaspoon can help relieve the pain. Teething rings try giving her one that has been stored in the fridge – can also be soothing as the pressure of chewing may relieve the discomfort.
Choose a solid ring rather than a liquid-filled one as these could leak and cannot be sterilised.
If your baby is over six months old you could try offering her an unsweetened rusk or bread-stick to chew on. She may find chewing on a piece of frozen fruit or vegetable soothing. Always stay with your baby when she has food in case she chokes.
Teething gels containing a local anaesthetic will help to numb the area for up to 20 minutes. These should be used no more than six times a day and, if you are breastfeeding, should be avoided before a feed as the numbness can make sucking difficult.
It is important to buy a teething gel which is right for your baby’s age, so always check with the pharmacist before buying.
If your baby is three months or older you can give her infant paracetamol or ibuprofen. Check with your pharmacist if you are unsure how much your baby should have and always stick to the recommended dose.
It’s really important to clean your baby’s teeth every morning and evening. You’ll probably find it easier to first clean the teeth by using your finger wrapped in a soft cloth.
Once your baby has got used to the idea of having her teeth cleaned you can start using a soft baby toothbrush with a tiny bit of children’s toothpaste.
You should continue to clean your child’s teeth until she is old enough to do it for herself under your supervision. Even though she will eventually lose them all, your child’s milk teeth are important.
She will need them to chew and eat with until she is around 12, so it makes good sense to care for them right from the start.