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What is Teething?
That cute little toothless grin doesn’t last forever! In fact, your baby is actually born with a set of 20 ‘milk teeth’ hidden just under the gums and at about five or six months of age (sometimes as early as three months or as late as 12), they’ll start to slowly pop up and reveal themselves to the world! This is called ‘teething’ and it can take anything from a few weeks or months before the cycle is complete. It’s usually a delicate time and can cause your baby varying levels of discomfort, so make sure you’re on hand with even more hugs, extra kisses and reassuring smiles.
So how does it all work? Well, generally, the first baby teeth to appear are the two bottom front ones, followed by the two top middle, and then others at the side and back. But there’s no exact rule to it so in the beginning some teeth can appear miles apart, but don’t worry! In time (and once the full set comes through) the baby teeth will move into their usual spot. Review the basic chart to give you a quick idea of when you can expect your little one’s pearly whites to ‘erupt’.
Signs of Teething
So how can you tell if your baby is about to teethe and what can you do to keep them as calm, happy and comfortable as possible? There are a few tell-tale signs of teething, like increased drooling for instance. Keep an eye on this, because while the saliva helps cool the painful gums, it can also lead to a nasty rash on the face, particularly around the mouth and on the cheeks. Some other early signs of teething are that your little one’s gums are getting red or inflamed, that they’re gnawing on everything and anything to ease gum pressure, that they appear to be in pain or they’re just a bit unsettled and off their game. It’s important to note, however, that while many people believe teething can cause a temperature or even loose stools, a lot of experts have mixed opinions on this and recommend other causes also be considered.
Tips for teeting babies
Even though teething can be a rough time for your little one, the good news is that there’s lots of things you can do to help ease the discomfort. Firstly, chilled objects such as a refrigerated teething ring or cold foods (such as fruit purée or yoghurt) are a real winner, so too is giving him/her an apple wrapped in muslin cloth or a silicone based teething ring to chew on. Secondly, commercial teething gels are great for rubbing on your baby’s gums and provide good amounts of numbing relief for up to 20 minutes or so – just be sure to check and follow the relevant directions for use on pack, check with your GP if you’re unsure about whether they’re safe and avoid using them just before feeding time. Massaging his/her gums gently but firmly with your fingers is another age-old soothing technique as the pressure offers welcome relief to the reverse pressure of the emerging baby teeth below - just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly first of course!
On a final note, there’s been a lot of chatter in the last few years about amber teething necklaces and whether they’re safe or not. You might have seen some celebrity babies on TV and in the mags wearing them? They might look great but experts are actually divided on whether these little Baltic amber beads are a choking hazard or not, so head to either www.productsafety.gov.au, or http://www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/for-consumers/goods/product-safety and search for ‘Amber teething necklace’ and make your own decision about whether they’re for you or not. Safety first!
Ask any mum with a toddler and they’ll tell you that teething can be a trying and difficult time for both your baby and you. It’s never fun seeing your little one in any sort of pain or discomfort, but in this instance it’s a vital step in their growth and development. So try any or all of the soothing techniques above and see what works best for you both, shower your bub with extra love and before you know it you’ll be brushing their little pearly whites for them before bed time!
Taking care of milk teeth
Teething’s underway, you’re doing everything you can to soothe your little one’s gums, so what next? Cleaning of course! As your baby's teeth bob up, it’s your job to make sure they stay nice and clean and healthy until they’re old enough to brush them themselves ... which won’t be until they’re about 18 months old. Until then, get yourself a baby-size toothbrush from the supermarket or chemist (they’re so cute!) and brush their little teeth with a tiny amount of toothpaste twice a day. As more and more teeth start popping up and brushing alone can’t get those hard to reach places, you can start gently flossing, too!
As with adults, tooth decay can cause short and long term discomfort and complications for children too, so keep an eagle eye on the health and hygiene of your baby’s teeth right from the get go! For starters, you can help prevent tooth decay by not putting your baby to bed with a bottle of milk (as the sugar in it can cause what’s known as ‘baby-bottle tooth decay’ or ‘bottle rot’) and you can reduce the risk of cavities by changing your toddler from a bottle to a cup by one year or even earlier if possible. It’s also worth noting that if your city’s water isn’t fluoridated then a quick check with your doctor will help ensure your child gets the fluoride he/she needs for strong, heathy teeth.
When your little one hits the 12 month mark, you can take him/her to the dentist for the very first time! This is another exciting milestone and your dentist will no doubt give you lots of great advice about caring for your child’s teeth – including some basics like not giving them too many sweets or lollies, the importance of brushing their teeth shortly after they eat anything too sugary, and possibly even the curious ability of cheese to neautralise PH levels and help prevent tooth decay when the toothbrush isn’t handy!
Then, before you know it, as your toddler’s skills develop (around 18 months) they’ll be all about learning to brush their teeth for themselves. Try as they might they’ll almost certainly need your help to make sure they master this important skill, so have fun while teaching your little one to take good care of that brilliant smile and always do a final check to make sure they’ve done the job thoroughly … because when it comes to clean and healthy teeth, you never can be too sure!
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