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Baby teeth and teething by Gina Ford

On average, a baby's teeth begin to appear at around five to seven months. However, occasionally a newborn is born with a tooth already showing, and at the opposite end of the scale, it is not a concern if your baby's teeth do not come through until he is a year old.

Teething symptoms

Contrary to common belief, teething should not cause feverishness nor tummy upsets. But a tooth coming through may be temporarily painful for your child and his gums may appear slightly swollen. This can cause irritability and may be accompanied by a tendency to drool more than usual. If a rash develops around the mouth and chin, keep the area as dry as possible and use a very thin layer of barrier cream to prevent further inflammation.
Some mothers do feel that their babies are much more irritable when a tooth is coming through. Although there are babies who never seem to suffer from teething, for those who do, it appears to be worse with the first teeth. It is thought that babies adapt to the sensation of new teeth arriving and learn to live with it.

If your baby is really irritable when a tooth is coming through, you can try rubbing his gums with teething gel or giving him a sachet of homeopathic teething powder to ease the pain. Do not offer any other medication unless prescribed by your doctor. You could also get a plastic teething ring for him to bite down on. Try placing it in the refrigerator for a short while before giving it to him, to see if the cool sensation helps his sore gums.


If your baby's teeth have started to appear, he will constantly want to be chewing on something. Offering him finger foods at every meal will help and he may also prefer to have some of his solids served cold or cool while he is cutting a tooth.

The sensation of new teeth appearing can lead to a baby wanting to bite. Sometimes this can occur during feeding. To prevent this from happening, you should take the baby off the breast, saying firmly, "No biting", as you do so. This should help him learn that biting you is wrong.
If your baby develops a temperature, or goes off his food, or is sick, you should consult a doctor. All too often I hear of babies whose irritable symptoms have been put down to teething, when in fact it turns out to be an ear or throat infection.

Your child's teeth

  • It is usual for the first tooth to come through at the bottom front of the mouth - a lower incisor, followed by a second lower incisor. Generally the next teeth to appear are the upper incisors, the top two middle teeth. The molars appear some time later along the sides and back of the mouth, followed by the canines. Finally the second molars in the upper and lower back of the mouth appear, usually by the second year. By the age of three your child should have a full set of 20 baby teeth.
  • It is really important to begin to clean your baby's teeth as soon as the first one appears. At this stage you will probably find it easiest to use a small piece of gauze wrapped round your finger, along with a small amount of special baby toothpaste which can be massaged all round the baby's gums and teeth. Later, when more teeth have appeared, you can move on to a soft baby toothbrush for cleaning.
  • Clean your baby's tooth or teeth after breakfast and at bedtime, after he has had his milk. He will quickly get used to this and before long he will help you by trying to clean his teeth himself! There is a wide range of children's toothpastes on the market that have been specially formulated to protect your baby's teeth, while tasting nice.
From The Contented Baby's First Year, by Gina Ford


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