Tips for teething babies

This article is by Annabelle Loras the osteoapath at Islington's Angel Wellbeing. Annabelle specialises in the treatment of mum's and babies.


Timing of the emergence of teeth varies widely between babies. Commonly teeth start to emerge through the gums at around 6 months, however some babies are born with their first teeth and others don’t start teething until after 12 months of age. These teeth are known as deciduous teeth or ‘milk’ teeth and the process is known as teething. Most children will have all of their milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old.




Commonly teeth tend to emerge as follows:

5-7 months: Lower central incisors (bottom front teeth)
6-8 months: Upper central incisors (top front teeth)
9-10 months: Bottom lateral incisors (each side of the bottom front teeth)
10-12 months: Top lateral incisors (either side of the top front teeth)
12-16 months: Molars (back teeth)
16-20 months: Canines
20-30 months: Second molars

How do you know whne your baby is teething?

Although commonly teething begins at 6 months, some babies may exhibit symptoms up to 2 months before the emergence of the first tooth. Some babies may show no sign of pain or discomfort at all.

Classic signs and symptoms of a teething baby include:

• Drooling more than usual
• Chewing/biting on solid objects including toys and fingers
• Irritability or crankiness/fussiness
• Sore, tender, red or swollen gums – white or opaque bumps may be visible
• Pulling on ears
• Flushed cheeks
• Refusing food
• Rash on the face and/or neck from the excessive drooling
• Slightly raised temperature (but not over 38 degrees)
• Change in bowel motions and/or feeding patterns
• Waking in the night

It is important to note that teething does not cause:

• High fever
• Diarrhea
• Vomiting

NB: contact your GP or NHS Direct for advice if your baby experiences any of these symptoms.

Tips for teething babies:

Here are some tips to help make teething easier for your baby. You may need to try several different things until you find something that works for your baby.

• Chewing – Teething babies will generally try to chew anything to help relieve the discomfort, including fingers or knuckles (washed), pacifier and toys specifically designed for chewing. Chilling objects (in the fridge, not freezer as frozen can burn gums) adds extra relief to the gums by having a numbing effect.

Some healthy options may include raw fruit and vegetables, for example bananas, large pieces of apple, cucumber, celery and carrot or a crust of bread. Baby safe feeders/mesh feeding bags containing chilled food may also help. Another popular choice is rusks, however it is best to avoid these as they usually contain sugar which can cause tooth decay.

Make sure you always supervise your child when they are eating/chewing in case they choke. This is particularly important once the first four teeth have come through as babies can then bite off small pieces of food which increases the risk of choking. Never give food or other choking hazards while babies are lying down.

• Teething rings – these give babies something safe to chew on which is reported to ease pain and discomfort. Generally ones made of firm rubber are better than liquid filled varieties which have been known to break when chewed.

Cooling rings in the fridge first can further help to sooth the gums, however be sure not to freeze the ring in the freezer as this can damage and burn the gums. Cold wet flannels have also been reported to benefit babies if a ring is not available, with some parents suggesting soaking the cloth in chamomile tea first.

At night, teething rings might be best avoided as they could be a distraction which keep babies awake. Some parents also report that amber teething rings can be effective in reducing signs of discomfort.

• Teething gels – your local pharmacist can provide you with a sugar free gel to rub on the gums. The gels often contain mild local anaesthetic to help numb any pain and antiseptic to help prevent infection as the skin is broken and teeth start to emerge. These numb the pain for around 20 minutes. This treatment is only indicated for babies over 4 months old. Homeopathic teething gel alternatives are also available.

NB: avoid using paracetamol elixirs and teething gel at the same time, as the gels generally also contain paracetamol. It is recommended that you check with your GP or pharmacist before buying a teething gel.

• Rubbing babies gums – the pressure of a gentle gum massage with a clean finger, damp cloth or moistened gauze can help to ease discomfort. Do not rub alcohol on babies gums.

• Medicines – some medicines, such as calpol, are specifically designed for teething babies and are available through your pharmacist. These usually contain a small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease discomfort and reduce raised temperatures. Ask for one that is sugar free.

Always follow the dosage instructions and ask your pharmacist or GP for advice if you are unsure. Alternatively, multi dose and single dose homeopathic remedies, for example single dose chamomilla (right) homeopathic remedy, have also been reported by some mothers to be helpful.

• Cool drink – cool water, chilled breast/formula milk or other sugar free drinks help to sooth babies gums and can help with excessive drooling. Try to avoid this at night if you have already managed to stop a nighttime feeding cycle, as feeding at night might result in re-establishing a night feeding cycle.

• Comfort and distraction – play, cuddles and comforting sympathy distract babies from their pain. A new toy, an extra cuddle or a walk may help to distract babies from their pain. If possible, this should be avoided if you have already managed to establish a good sleeping pattern as in may set up unhelpful sleep associations.

• Clean the dribble – in some teething babies, increased drooling can result in skin irritation and rashes on the face, chin and neck. Frequently wiping their chin, face and neck can help prevent a rash developing and changing wet clothes helps to avoid possible chaffing and irritation. The use of bibs also helps to catch saliva.

Most importantly, do not ignore things if your baby seems to be in a lot of pain or discomfort, has a high fever or is obviously unwell – call NHS Direct or speak with your GP or health visitor.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to give medical advice or to be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of content found on this site.


By Annabelle on 1st Apr 2013   Share |

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