If you’ve got a grouchy, crying 6 month old, chances are you’ll soon start to see a tooth poking through her gums. Once it’s fully formed, a toothy grin is the cutest thing in the world. But for now all you can see is the pain your baby is in, and all you can do is wonder what you can do to help her.
Some babies are born with a few first teeth. It’s a developmental thing, just like some have hair and some don’t. But it’s unusual for a baby to never be affected by teething pain. “It’s fine when children are older and can say it’s painful,” says Dr Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation. But while she’s a baby, the only way she can tell you her gums are bothering her is by crying.
What she’s feeling
“Your baby should start teething at around 6 months old and this will continue until all 20 baby teeth are in the mouth. That can take anything up to 18 months or two years,” says Dr Carter. Now you’re thinking, “Two years!” And yes, we’ll be honest, each time a tooth comes through, it’s going to cause some discomfort to your little one. After all, we’re talking about a sharp object piercing through skin. But don’t panic, it’s not going to mean desperate crying every day for two years solid.
“If she puts pressure on it that’ll make it uncomfortable,” adds Dr Carter. “That’s when you might see the teething creating a fever and temperature, or her cheeks could appear red and be warm to the touch. It’s caused by bacteria entering the body through the new opening caused by the tooth.”
How to soothe
“Generally, it’s a question of what you can do to help things along and make it as easy as possible,” says Dr Carter. To reduce the pain there are several special teething gels that you can use, such as Nelsons Teetha Teething Granules, Bonjela Teething Gel and Calgel Teething Gel, some of which contain a mild painkiller. “Apply the gel using your finger and gently massage it onto your baby’s gums,” continues Dr Carter. Always make sure you read the label on any gels and ask your GP or health visitor if you’re not sure. The other thing you can try are teether toys, which are designed to massage the sore gums. Many have gels or water inside that can be cooled to soothe her mouth.
As soon as the first baby teeth begin to appear you should start to clean them. At first you may find it easier to use a piece of clean cloth wrapped around your forefinger. “A piece of muslin or gauze is fine,” says Dr Carter. And at the vital happier moment, get the camera out for that all-important toothy picture.
“Holly’s been teething since around 5 months. I use Ashton & Parsons teething powder and put Dentinox all over her gums before she goes to sleep. If she wakes screaming in pain I give her more powder, and if that doesn’t work then sometimes Calpol.”
Jo McGahon, 33, from Caversham, mum to Holly, 6 months