Baby milestones: teething

by | Jun 6, 2020

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Teething can be a painful and uncomfortable experience, but it is an important milestone in any infant’s life as it indicates that their first set of teeth are on their way. Paediatric Dentist Dr Imraan Hoosen explains what you can expect when your baby is teething.

It is an exciting moment for any parent when their baby’s first, pearly white tooth starts peeking through his gum. However, the teething process that precedes the appearance of baby teeth is usually painful and can leave your baby feeling cranky and uncomfortable. Here is some advice on what you can expect when your baby is teething.

What is teething?

Your baby is born with all his teeth ready and waiting to make an appearance – teeth start developing when a baby is still in the womb. Teething, or the action through which an infant’s teeth first emerge through his gums, usually begins when a baby is between four to seven months of age. In some children this can go on for a period of three years, or until the child receives his full complement of deciduous (baby) teeth.

The age at which teething starts can vary greatly between children, and it is common for the first teeth to appear later than four months of age. In general, your baby’s teeth will emerge in pairs, with the left and right pair of the same kind of tooth emerging at the same time. The first pair of teeth to cut through the gum are usually the two middle teeth on the lower jaw.

What are the signs that your baby is teething?

  • Your baby drools more than usual.
  • He has trouble falling asleep, or staying asleep.
  • He has become very fussy.
  • He is very irritable.
  • He does not want to eat.
  • He tries to bite everything.
  • He has swollen or sensitive gums.
  • A tooth is visible on the gum line.


Be smart about the symptoms

Although many parents swear by it, there is currently no scientific evidence to support the claim that symptoms such as fever, flu or diarrhoea are associated with teething. Therefore, even if you suspect that your baby is teething, it is important to take him to a medical professional if he is showing any of these symptoms, especially if any last for longer than 24 hours. It’s always best to make sure that there isn’t something else at the root of these symptoms.

What can you do to soothe your teething baby?

Teething babies can be particularly cranky, and it’s no surprise once you think of the pain in their gums. Try soothing your baby’s irritated gums by rubbing them gently with a clean finger, a moist piece of gauze or a facecloth. Allowing your child to chew on a clean teething ring can also relieve some of the discomfort he is feeling. Chill a damp facecloth in the freezer and give it to your baby to chew on.

If your baby is old enough for solids, you can try giving him teething biscuits. In a South African setting, having the baby bite on unflavoured biltong seems to work well with many of my patients, explains Dr Hoosen. It is also extremely important to remember to dry excessive drool often to prevent any skin irritations.

Can I give my baby painkillers?

It is best not to give any pain medication to your little one when they are teething. However, if your baby is in a lot of pain and discomfort you could administer some over-the-counter pain medication, but you must consult your doctor, dentist or pharmacist first.

While the time leading up to your baby’s first teeth cutting through the gum can be a difficult one, it is a very important milestone in any infant’s life. Ensure that your little one feels as comfortable and loved as possible. A few extra cuddles from mom and dad can go a long way towards soothing your baby’s discomfort. And don’t forget to have your camera ready for when your baby’s pearly whites do finally erupt through his gums – this is a milestone you’ll want to remember.