Jan 22, 2014
Teething begins when the first tooth comes through at around 6 months. It’s usually one of the two lower front teeth (lower central incisors). Teething ends around age two with the appearance of the second-year molars at the back. Your baby’s teeth may erupt early or late, but they’ll appear in the same sequence as other babies’.
During teething, a tooth has to push its way through the gum, and the mouth is a very sensitive part of the body. So teething’s uncomfortable, even painful, though the degree of upset varies from one baby to the next. It’s not clear why, since they all have teeth of about the same size.
Your baby may cry more than usual, and will almost certainly dribble a lot because the gum is inflamed. One cheek may look red. If you look inside the mouth, you may see (and feel) a hard tooth just under the gum.
Some people believe nappy rash is linked with teething, but it’s probably just coincidence. Both teething and nappy rash are pretty common.
Teething doesn’t cause abdominal pain, high temperature, a cough, cold symptoms, smelly wee, eczema, constipation or fits (seizures or convulsions). Those are just myths.
In fact there’s a real risk in thinking serious symptoms are due to teething when they’re not. It’s worth remembering that many other conditions can occur while a baby is cutting teeth.
Always get medical advice if your baby
- has a high temperature
- can’t be comforted
- vomits or has many loose stools
- has an unusual cry (e.g. high-pitched)
- has any symptoms you don’t understand.
If your baby has trouble with teething, there are several things you can consider:
Provide hard things to chew. Some teething rings can be put in the fridge, which gives added relief. But always check the instructions to see whether that particular product can safely go into the fridge (or even the freezer).
Nibbling on foods such as toast or raw carrot can also help (but babies should always be supervised while eating).
Soothing remedies applied in the mouth. These range from gels rubbed onto the gums, to powders and granules applied to mouth or tongue. Ask your pharmacist, and always follow directions on the product.
Pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen. A few parents dislike dosing their babies simply for teething symptoms, but others say it’s invaluable. Again, always use the right dose for your baby’s age.
Teething doesn’t last forever, but it spans an important time in a baby’s development. During these 18 months, your baby learns to crawl, walk and speak. Horizons broaden as your baby samples new food and new experiences. A sense of identity is emerging too. With it comes a period of wilfulness, as you may notice on approaching the so-called ‘terrible twos’. That said, there’s really nothing to fear about this stage. If you have any queries about your child’s development, speak to your health visitor.
Dr Carol Cooper, MA, MB, BChir, MRCP
Carol graduated in medicine from Cambridge University and spent several years in hospital medical specialities before going into general practice when her first son was born. She is now a part-time GP in London and teaches at Imperial College Medical School.
Alongside this, Carol has been a medical journalist for 20 years, writing for many publications from The Sun to The Lancet. She has been The Sun newspaper’s doctor for over 15 years and she also broadcasts on TV and radio.
Carol’s numerous books are mainly on child health and parenting, and include the popular title “Twins & Multiple Births”. Most of her titles are a fusion of her professional expertise and her personal experience as a mother of three sons (including twins). As co-author of the book “General Practice at a Glance”, Carol won a British Medical Association book award (2013).
Carol works as honorary consultant in family health to Tamba (Twins & Multiple Births Association), and delivers pre-natal sessions to expectant parents of twins, triplets and more.
Carol’s charity work includes Arthritis Care, the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, National Osteoporosis Society, Action on Pre-Eclampsia and Lucy Air Ambulance for Children. She has also written a novel.
Dr Carol Cooper is on Twitter @DrCarolCooper