Teething usually begins around 6 months of age, but may occur as early as 4 months or as late as 12 months. The first teeth are termed “primary/milk teeth” and are often shed between the ages of 6 and 13 years, with “secondary/permanent teeth” replacing them.
Tooth development is a reflection of general skeletal growth and bone maturation. Tooth eruption usually starts with the lower central incisors.
Every baby experiences teething differently. Some have virtually no symptoms while others have discomfort for a considerable period of time. There are certain pointers to teething, and they usually begin a week or two before the tooth shows, disappearing as soon as the tooth breaks skin. However, contrary to popular opinion, there are no universal signs of teething. Common symptoms/signs of teething include drooling saliva, ear tugging, cheek rubbing, gritty sensation on the mum’s nipples while breastfeeding, crying, irritability, refusal to feed, and repeatedly waking up at night. Fever, diarrhoea and runny nose are often wrongly attributed to teething.
Simple remedies for the discomfort include:
- A warm bath and gentle rocking.
- Chewing on pacifiers, rattles, teething toys, or a soft wet brush: This helps relieve the discomfort. The item the baby chews on should be cleaned regularly to minimise the risk of diarrhoea.
- Cold drinks or food: The chilling sensation provides some relief. Teething toys and pacifiers can be put in a refrigerator (not a freezer as it may get hard in there) to provide extra comfort.
- Massaging your baby’s gum with a clean finger or a clean cloth soaked in cold water.
- Analgesics like paracetamol syrup.
Teething is, therefore, not an illness that needs treatment but a completely normal physiological process that babies go through.
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