You’ve come to love your baby’s gummy smile, but if he seems to be making more grimaces than adorable grins lately, he may be teething. Though you can’t do anything to speed up the process of growing teeth, we’ve got some tips to soothe the pain and keep those baby teeth clean and healthy once they’re in.
What are the signs of teething?
- We’ll start with the obvious – teeth! Look for those pearly whites to start sprouting around 6 to 8 months of age. Most babies grow their two bottom teeth first, followed by the two upper front teeth. The gaps in her smile should continue to fill in, typically in pairs, until she’s two-and-a-half years old.
- If you find that your baby is fussier than usual and generally seems to be in a bad mood, he could be experiencing the gum swelling and soreness that come before a tooth pushes through.
- Check your baby’s face and gums. If he’s teething, a red spot may appear on his gums where the new tooth will sprout. He also may have redder cheeks than usual.
- If anything within your baby’s reach has become a chew toy – from his own fist to beloved toys or chunky storybooks – you may have a teether on your hands. Check to see if anything you take out of your baby’s mouth is covered in drool, as excessive dribbling is another indicator of teething.
What can I do to help?
If teething’s gotten your baby especially out of sorts, here are some you can take to keep his mind off the pain:
- Hold him and comfort him often
- Offer a distraction – go for a walk and point out anything that might be of interest, including other people, animals, or something as simple as a leaf. At home, you can engage your baby by playing games or looking at books.
- Try a ring or toy specifically designed for teething – check out these recommended toys over on our Baby’s First Year blog. Most can be popped in the fridge and cooled for extra pain relief.
- Cool a teaspoon in the fridge for a few minutes and gently place it on your baby’s gums. The coolness can help with pain relief. You can also try fresh vegetables, such as a carrot, or an ice cube wrapped in a washcloth.
- Speak to your pediatrician before applying anesthetic gel or oral painkillers to soothe teething pain.
When should we start brushing?
Your baby should stop growing teeth around two-and-half years and will sport a set of 20 shiny, new baby teeth. Though your baby will eventually lose all of these teeth, it’s important to care for them as you would care for the permanent teeth that will follow. This first set of teeth is essential for speech, chewing, and biting food. You can start encouraging good dental hygiene habits as soon as your baby sprouts his first teeth:
- As soon as tooth number one emerges, start brushing it twice a day, every day. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a small coating of fluoride toothpaste with a small, soft toothbrush.
- You can use a pea-size amount of toothpaste once your child is about 2 years old. Your toddler will most likely need assistance with brushing his teeth until age 4 or 5 – even then, have an older sibling or yourself check to make sure he’s properly cleaned his teeth.
- If your child is in the care of a babysitter or other caretaker, make sure that person knows the teeth-brushing routine.
- Once your child gets a little older, emphasize the role healthy eating plays in caring for teeth
When should we bring baby to a dentist?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that every child visit a dentist before his first birthday.
- This first visit can establish a good relationship between your child and his dentist, encouraging healthy habits from the start. If untreated, tooth decay – even in impermanent baby teeth – can lead to more serious infections or discomfort when eating.
- During the appointment, the pediatric dentist will check the teeth, discuss any questions you may have about oral care, and set up a timeframe for follow-up visits as your child grows.