February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Here at Ready. Set. Food!, we want to help parents start baby’s dental health off strong. So, today, we’re covering what parents need to know about teething and baby’s first tooth.
Baby’s First Teeth
When will baby’s first tooth come in? It varies from baby to baby. Many babies will cut their first tooth around 6 months of age. But some babies have their first tooth come in as early as 4 months, and some babies’ first teeth won’t appear until close to their first birthday. So, don’t panic if baby has passed the 6-month mark and isn’t teething yet.
The lower front teeth (lower incisors) are usually the first teeth to come in. After they cut their first teeth, babies’ teeth will continue to come in gradually until around age 3. By age 3, most kids will have all of their baby teeth.
The American Dental Association shares more information about baby’s first teeth and teething:
Baby Teething Symptoms
Baby may show signs of teething as early as two to three months before they cut their first tooth. These signs may indicate that baby is teething:
- Sore/tender gums
- Teething rash (when the drip from drooling causes redness, rashes, soreness, chapping, and chafing in baby’s mouth and chin area, and possibly in their neck area)
- Chewing/biting different objects to relieve their pain (they may chew on teethers, other toys,your fingers, or possibly your nipples if you’re breastfeeding)
- Coughing/gagging (from drool; this isn’t a cause for concern as long as your baby doesn’t have other cold, flu, or allergy symptoms)
- Slight rise in temperature (to around 99° Fahrenheit; baby’s temperature will not rise to a fever of 100.4° F or higher just from teething)
- Fussiness while feeding
- Refusing to eat (be persistent with feeding, and call your pediatrician if this lasts for more than a few days)
- Restlessness at night
- Pulling the ear or rubbing the cheek to soothe pain
But just like the timing of their first tooth, every baby is different when it comes to teething symptoms. Some babies don’t have teething symptoms at all, while others may suffer and cry through months of pain.
Soothing Baby Teething Pain
If baby suffers through teething, try these methods to help ease the pain:
Massage baby’s gums with your clean fingers, or with a soft and wet toothbrush without toothpaste.You could also use a cold, wet washcloth (but don’t use a frozen one, as too low a temperature could irritate baby’s gums even more.)
Offer baby a teething toy to chew. Chewing creates counter-pressure on the gums that relieves the pressure from baby’s emerging teeth.
You could offer solid teething rings, or other toys made from rubber, plastic, or silicone.
Chilling the toys in the fridge may help further soothe baby, but never freeze teething toys. Chewing on frozen toys could hurt baby’s already sensitive gums.
If baby has started solids, offer them chilled versions of soft foods they’ve already eaten before. You could try refrigerated yogurt, applesauce, or fruit purees. You could also offer baby pieces of frozen fruit in a mesh or silicone baby feeder.
If the other remedies don’t work, ask your pediatrician if it’s ok to give your little one baby acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol).
Avoid the following “remedies” for teething, as they pose dangers to baby:
- Amber, wood, and silicone teething necklaces (they pose a choking hazard)
- Rubbing alcohol on baby’s gums
- Topical numbing agents such as benzocaine (they could reduce baby’s blood oxygen levels)
- Herbal/homeopathic teething gels and remedies (some contain ingredients that may cause heart problems and drowsiness)
Caring For Baby’s First Teeth
Once the first ones start to come in, here’s how to care for baby’s teeth:
Brush your child’s tooth/teeth twice a day, including after baby’s last food of the day. Use a baby toothbrush with a smear of baby fluoride toothpaste that’s the size of a grain of rice.
If you’re bottle-feeding, don’t put baby to bed with a bottle as this may lead to tooth decay. Instead, feed the bottle, brush baby’s teeth, then put them to bed.
(For more details on brushing baby’s teeth, check out this article from What To Expect.)
Soon after baby’s first tooth appears, make baby’s first appointment to see a pediatric dentist (or any dentist who sees young children, if there isn’t a pediatric dentist nearby). Ideally, the first appointment should happen before baby turns one, or soon after baby’s first birthday.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and the American Dental Association (ADA) recommend that all babies have a “dental home” by the age of one. The “dental home” is a pediatric dentist whom your little one will continue to see regularly throughout childhood, and who will provide the all-important foundations for cavity prevention and lifelong dental health.
Baby’s dentist will make sure that baby’s teeth are developing normally, check that baby’s teeth and gums are healthy, and look for any possible dental problems. They will also give you the needed guidance on how to best care for baby’s teeth.
Ask your baby’s dentist about applying fluoride varnish, a protective dental treatment, once baby’s teeth come in. The ADA and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both recommend fluoride varnish for babies, but you’ll need to have applied at a dentist’s office. The sooner the varnish is applied after a tooth comes in, the better for helping to prevent tooth decay.
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