In every baby's life comes the time when their first tooth starts to emerge through the gums; this process is called teething. Although this can be a frustrating time for you and your child, knowing what to expect can help you manage and overcome several baby teething symptoms – which can begin as early as three months.
You'll most likely start to see the first tooth pushing through the gumline when your infant is between four and seven months old, and each child may experience this differently. One may have a tooth erupt without a parent even knowing it. Another child may become irritable, cry or wake up more often. Parents often note that their child starts to "drool more" or want to "put everything in their mouth" during this stage.
Symptoms of Teething
Some babies can be fussier than usual when they start teething, often because of soreness and swelling in the gums before a tooth breaks through. These symptoms usually begin approximately three to five days before the tooth shows, and the symptoms can disappear as soon as the tooth erupts. The front teeth are the first to erupt at around four to seven months; the back teeth erupt between 18 and 24 months. Teething occurs until all 20 primary (baby) teeth are in place, around two to three years of age.
Other baby teething symptoms include:
- Gum swelling and sensitivity
- Biting behavior
- Refusing food and
- Sleep problems
Allow your child to chew on cold objects: A frozen washcloth (rolled up) or cold teething rings are popular choices among parents. Ensure these rings are safe as well, as some have been known to contain unsanitary liquid.
Keep the gums clean by wiping them with gauze after each meal, and massage their gums with your finger or a gentle toothbrush. If you're inclined to use an over-the-counter pain reliever, apply it as directed and in doses that are appropriate for the age of your child.
Caring for Baby's First Teeth
Keep your infant's maturing mouth clean by applying a moist washcloth to the gums every day. This washcloth can keep bacteria from building up in your baby's mouth, especially if he continues to bite into toys and other household items. But when your baby's first teeth appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush.
After your baby's first tooth arrives, it's a great time to start with regular dental checkups as well. The American Dental Association Mouth Healthy site recommends scheduling this first dental visit after the first tooth erupts and no later than the child's first birthday. Your baby's teeth and gums will be examined at this visit, and it's important to use a safe and gentle teeth-cleaning product at home, such as My First Colgate™ toothpaste for infants and toddlers, which is geared toward children up to the age of two, because it contains no fluoride and is safe if accidentally swallowed.
You can start using fluoride toothpaste when your child learns how to spit at about the age of two to three years old. By this point, a majority of the primary teeth should have erupted in your child's mouth. Be sure to use just a smear of fluoride toothpaste during brushing.
Make sure to brush your child's mouth twice a day just like you would for yourself. Remember that having regular childhood dental care will help set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. There's nothing better than a happy, smiling baby looking up at you with a priceless, toothy grin!
About the author: Diana Tosuni-O'Neill is a licensed registered dental hygienist in New York and New Jersey with over 25 years of clinical experience in dental hygiene practice. She was employed for over 15 years with the team dentist for the sports teams the New York Giants, the Brooklyn Nets and the New Jersey Devils. Diana is also an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and a Group Fitness Instructor. Her passion for the dental and fitness fields spans over two decades. She is also a freelance writer specializing in oral health care. She enjoys traveling, gardening, decorating and her fitness workouts. Diana presently resides outside Manhattan with her two children.