If you find yourself in the teething zone – which can occur anytime between six months old and three years old – you don’t have to be stuck there.
Dr Janita Shah gives her best teething remedies so you and your baby can life your best life, one tooth at a time.
Is my baby teething?
Teething occurs when the tooth erupts or breaks through the gum. There is no “normal” when it comes to the timing of baby teeth eruption. All children are different, and the sequence in which the teeth appear is more important than when they appear.
Here is a general guide to when baby teeth begin to appear.
Some babies will give no signs that a new tooth is about to poke through, others may show one or more of the following symptoms.
- Irritability and crankiness
- More whining less giggling
- Being clingier than usual
- Drooling and dribbling
- Red, swollen gums
- Reduced appetite
- Putting fingers, toys in the mouth
- Gnawing, chewing, even biting things around them
This often lasts about three or four days. Once the tooth breaks through the gums, the symptoms start to decrease.
Do not be surprised when it happens again. You may experience teething déjà vu up to 20 times as that is the number of baby teeth waiting to erupt!
Signs it is more than teething
Teething coincides with normal changes in your baby’s immunity. In pregnancy, the mother’s antibodies are transferred to babies. These antibodies help protect your baby in the first year of life. This starts to wane around the same time as teething. This, together with behavioural changes as your baby starts to explore their surroundings, increases the chances of catching viral infections which present with symptoms similar to those reported for teething.
Therefore, if the symptoms last for weeks at a time, or if your baby has a fever, diarrhoea, or a runny nose, it is recommended that you take your baby to see the local GP or Paediatrician.
What can you do to help?
Massaging the gums
Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with clean fingers or a clean, cool washcloth is the easiest way to relieve discomfort caused by teething.
For babies who eat solid foods, cold foods such as yogurt and refrigerated/frozen fruit can help decrease the inflammation along the gums and soothe your child. You could also cut and freeze fruits like cantaloupes, bananas and mango and fit into a BPA-free mesh feeder for your baby to chew on. Avoid prolonged and frequent exposure as fruits contain natural sugar which if continuously exposed to can cause cavities in teeth. Remember to clean the teeth and gums with a clean cloth or toothbrush after.
Teething rings and toys
A cool teething ring can give your baby some relief. Avoid freezing teething rings as they may bruise your baby’s delicate gums. Instead place them in the refrigerator to make it cool before giving it to your baby to use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the teething rings before giving it to your baby.
Teething rings are made of various materials. Teething rings made of 100% natural rubber, food-grade silicone and safe plastics are recommended non-toxic teething ring ingredients that can be safely chewed on without worrying about toxic chemicals.
Avoid using teething rings which are filled with liquid as your baby’s chewing could easily break the ring causing the liquid to spill in their mouth. Ensure that the teething ring does not have any small parts attached to it which may become a choking hazard. Teething necklaces are a choking and strangulation hazard and are not recommended. Make sure you watch over your child when they use the teething ring.
Sugar-free teething biscuits and rusks
Teething biscuits and rusks can be offered from to babies that have started eating solids. Ensure they are sugar-free and pay attention to oral hygiene. Remember to clean the teeth and gums with a clean cloth or toothbrush after.
Be cautious with medications
Pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol can be used to provide relief. Start with one dose, if this is not sufficient, see the paediatric dentist before starting serial dosing.
Topical gels or ointments containing lidocaine, benzocaine or salicylic acid is not recommended. There are no long-term benefits of using such medications and meanwhile, your baby is swallowing it and getting high levels of the medication into their bloodstream which can cause serious adverse effects.
Do not hesitate to bring your baby in for a dental consultation if you have any concerns.
- Teoh, L. and Moses, G.M. (2020), Are teething gels safe or even necessary for our children? A review of the safety, efficacy and use of topical lidocaine teething gels. J Paediatr Child Health, 56: 502-505. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.14769