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Teething

Discomfort during early childhood caused by the eruption of the primary teeth

  • Most common between the ages of 6 months and 3 years
  • Gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

An infant’s first tooth usually appears at about the age of 6 months. Although the primary teeth have usually all erupted by about the age of 3 years, teething is an almost continuous process until the mid-teens, when the primary teeth are completely replaced by secondary teeth.

The eruption of a tooth can be uncomfortable and will probably make your baby irritable and restless. He or she may also be less willing to feed and may sleep poorly at night. Other symptoms include flushed cheeks, dribbling, and red, swollen gums around the site of the new tooth. You may also be able to feel the emerging tooth if you stroke the gum with your finger. Symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea are not due to teething and you should take your baby to see the doctor if these symptoms appear.

What can I do?

Babies who are teething often like chewing on a cold, hard object such as a teething ring. Over-the-counter local anaesthetic teething gels can be soothing if applied to the affected gums. Babies over 3 months can be given liquid paracetamol to relieve pain (see Painkillers).

You should avoid using sweet drinks to comfort your baby. Begin to clean his or her teeth with a soft baby toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears. Regular brushing will help to prevent decay and establish a routine of good oral hygiene (see Caring for your teeth and gums).

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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