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You don’t think much about your teeth unless there’s a problem. For babies who can’t communicate yet with words, teething can be a difficult time. Their gums become inflamed and tender as the teeth get closer to the surface and they take time to erupt or fully break through the gums.
Jade Elliott spoke with Pediatrician, Jenna Whitham, MD, Intermountain Healthcare, to discuss some tips for when your baby is teething.
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When will that first tooth appear?
Babies typically don’t have teeth when they’re born, but on average babies get their first tooth at about six months of age. Typically, they have a complete set of 20 “baby” teeth by 30 months of age. The lower central incisors usually come in first and the molars last.
Signs of teething
Teething is a process that all children experience. Prior to tooth eruption the gingiva or gums may appear blue-ish and swollen. The symptoms seen most consistently with children immediately prior to and right after a tooth erupts are: biting or putting their mouth on things, drooling, rubbing their gums and fussiness. Sometime children may show less interest in eating solid foods and have mild elevations in temperature.
But teething does not cause thick congestion, severe diarrhea, vomiting, cough, fevers or inability to drink liquids/take formula. If your child is having these types of symptoms, call your baby’s doctor to find out if you need to bring your baby in for a visit.
Four simple ways to manage teething pain
1. Teething toys may be used, but liquid filled teething rings should be chilled in the refrigerator, not the freezer). Be sure to sterilize in boiling water before use.
2. Teething biscuits, crackers or cold food items like frozen yogurt or fruit popsicles may be used for children older than nine months who are used to eating solid foods.
3. Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen) may be used for children over six months if needed, but you should verify correct dosage with your child’s doctor.
4. Distraction – play with your baby or take them outside or for a ride in the stroller
Whitham does not recommend using topical medications containing Benzocaine (Oragel) due to risk of overuse or ingestion.
Tips for breastfeeding once your baby has teeth
Most moms can keep breastfeeding without difficulty through tooth development. If baby bites, the feeding should be over immediately, baby will quickly learn that biting is not ok.
What foods are appropriate as teeth emerge
Babies as young as four months who have good head control can start pureed baby foods, and at six months we encourage parents to start solid food introduction. In fact, despite not having a full set of teeth, babies as young as nine months can “chew” solid foods by mashing bites with their jaw regardless of the number of teeth that have emerged.
When to start brushing baby’s teeth
I recommend parents start brushing baby’s teeth with a soft bristled brush when they notice the first tooth emerge. I recommend using a fluoride containing children’s toothpaste. Use a grain of rice sized amount or less depending on how many teeth are to be brushed. Make tooth brushing a twice daily habit.
For some ideas to make brushing teeth fun, click here.
Preventing Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
You can help prevent your baby from developing cavities or what is called Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or by beginning an oral hygiene routine within the first few days after birth. Start by cleaning your baby’s mouth by wiping the gums with a clean gauze pad. This helps remove plaque that can harm erupting teeth.
If you are bottle feeding, only give your baby a bottle with formula, breast milk or after one year of age, cow’s milk, and avoid giving them sugary beverages like juice or soda. Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottle before going to bed and not fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
Do babies need fluoride drops?
This depends on where you live. A good resource for this information is your county health department web site.
Intermountain Healthcare has pediatric dentists and adult dentists.
It’s important to establish care with a pediatric dentist by 18-24 month of age. Intermountain has pediatric dentists and family and special needs dentists. For more information about pediatric dentistry, click here.
For more information about family dentistry, click here.
The Baby Your Baby program provides many resources for all pregnant women and new moms in Utah. There is also expert advice from the Utah Department of Health and Intermountain Healthcare that air each week on KUTV 2News.