As much as we would love a teething manual, the reality is often different for every bub. One thing that’s consistent is our innate desire as parents to alleviate our little ones’ discomfort.
While the teething process is something every baby goes through, understanding how it works, its symptoms and how to help provide your baby with some relief may make the experience less stressful for parents and child alike.
Read on to discover what you should know, or alternatively you may find these links helpful to find the information you’re looking for:
- What Is Teething?
- When Does The Teething Process Begin?
- What Is The Role Of Baby Teeth?
- What Are Some Common Signs And Symptoms Of Teething?
- Do I Need To Brush My Baby’s Milk Teeth?
- Tips To Help Relieve Your Child’s Teething Discomfort
What Is Teething?
Teething is a process all children inevitably go through.
Babies are usually born with 20 milk teeth – otherwise known as baby teeth or primary teeth – which start to break through their gums as they venture from infancy to toddlerhood.
Famed by some for its ability to make a usually giggling bub grouchy in the blink of an eye, the teething transition is unique to every child. For some it’s a relatively easy process, while others may experience discomfort or pain as their milk teeth make an appearance.
When Does The Teething Process Begin?
Usually babies begin teething at 6-months and will have all 20 baby teeth by the age of 2 or 3 years old. Some will experience teething as early 3 months old while some late bloomers may celebrate their first birthday without a tooth in sight.
Often their teeth will come through in pairs (one on the left and one on the right). Usually this will begin with your bub’s lower two front teeth peeking through before the upper ones.
Generally, babies’ teeth grow front-to-back. And, usually, the order of tooth eruption is (1):
- The two front teeth (central incisors) in the lower jaw at 6-10 months old.
- The two front teeth (central incisors) in the upper jaw at 8-13 months old.
- The teeth either side of the central incisors (lateral incisors) at 8-16 months old.
- The first set of upper and lower molars (the flat-surfaced teeth at the back of their mouth) at 1-1.5 years old.
- The canine teeth, which sit beside the lateral incisors at 1.5-2 years old.
- The second set of upper and lower molars at 2-3 years old.
More often than not, they’ll have a full set of 20 by the time they are two or three-years old.
Each tooth takes about eight days to fully break through. During this time, you may notice a blue-grey bubble on your bub’s gum where the tooth is about to erupt. This is called an eruption cyst and will usually go away on its own (1).
Keep in mind that every child is different, so don’t fret if their teeth start to come through earlier or later than the children around them. If you do have any concerns, talk to a health professional.
What Is The Role Of Baby Teeth?
Although your little one will ultimately lose their milk teeth down the track, the teething process and supporting healthy baby teeth is important for:
- Biting, chewing and grinding foods as your bub begins to eat solids
- Development of normal speech
- Making space for permanent teeth and guiding them to the correct position
- Developing jaw and mouth muscles
What Are Some Common Signs And Symptoms Of Teething?
While some teething infants will breeze through this period relatively unfazed, others may experience discomfort as their teeth break through.
Some babies and toddlers may experience:
- Red, swollen gums
- Flushed cheeks
- Increased dribbling
- Irritability or restlessness
- Ear pulling
- Sucking on fingers and fists
- Reduced appetite
- Eruption cysts - a blue-grey bubble on the gum where the tooth is about to come through.
Although it’s normal for babies to experience some discomfort during the teething process, fever and diarrhoea are not signs of teething.
If your child is experiencing a fever above 38°C or diarrhoea, seek the advice of a health professional.
Do I Need to Brush my Baby’s Milk Teeth?
As soon as their first tooth erupts, you should start to brush your child’s teeth to help keep them healthy.
From 0-18 months, clean your child’s teeth with a soft, wet cloth or small soft toothbrush and water (no toothpaste).
Then, from 18 months, you can introduce low fluoride children’s toothpaste.
Regular brushing is important to remove the bugs and plaque that cause tooth decay. It’s recommended that we all brush our teeth twice every day, once in the morning and once before going to bed.
Tips To Help Relieve Your Child’s Teething Discomfort
As much as we’d love to wave a magic wand and rid our children of their uncomfortable teething symptoms, unfortunately there’s no quick fix to get their teeth to emerge any quicker than nature intends.
However, there are some options available that may help temporarily relieve their discomfort:
- Gum massage – using a clean finger and light pressure
- Chewable toys – chilled and age-appropriate
- Chilled soft foods – like yoghurt or fruit puree for a cooling effect
- Teething rusks – for infants over six-months-old who have started eating solids
- Drying the drool – to avoid irritating teething rash
- Teething products – including gels and oral liquids
Although teething may be an uncomfortable period for your little one, keep in mind that it's a normal phase of life that every child goes through. By equipping yourself with different techniques for managing their symptoms, you may help to relieve any discomfort associated with this period of development.
If you have any concerns about your baby’s teething, or if symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
- Victoria State Government - BetterHealth. (2020). Teeth development in children. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/teeth-development-in-children [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020].
- Queensland Government. (2020). Teething. [online] Available at: http://conditions.health.qld.gov.au/HealthCondition/condition/8/31/598/teething [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020].
- Government of Western Australia - Department of Health. (2020). Teething and your baby. [online] Available at: https://healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Teething-and-your-baby [Accessed 23 Jan. 2020].
- Parenting and Child Health. (2020). Teeth - development and teething. [online] Available at: http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthTopicDetails.aspx?p=114&np=122&id=2518 [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020]
- Australian Government Department of Health - HealthDirect. (2020). How your baby's teeth develop. [online] Available at: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/how-your-babys-teeth-develop [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020].
- The Little Teeth Book. (2020). [ebook] Melbourne, Australia: Dental Health Services Victoria, pp.1-32. Available at: https://www.dhsv.org.au/professionals/maternal-and-child-health-nurses [Accessed 24 Jan. 2020].