What You Can Do For Baby's Teething

Everyone loves babies—except when they're wailing. Teething is one of the reasons they wail.

Teething occurs when baby teeth start coming through the child's gums, usually between ages 6 months and 3 years. When this occurs, your child may have sore gums for a few days at a time. And if your baby has sore gums, he or she will let you know it.

Babies often get relief from a teething ring, a cool spoon, a cold wet washcloth, or a toothbrush, says Peter K. Domoto, D.D.S., retired professor and former chairman of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Washington School of Dentistry.

Some parents may worry about teething because of information they picked up from friends or family. "There is no evidence that high fevers, diarrhea, or facial rashes are caused by teething," Dr. Domoto says.

Teething in infants and toddlers is perfectly normal. It occurs as the tooth penetrates the gum. Your baby actually grew his or her baby teeth before birth. When your child is about 4 months old, the teeth begin to move to the surface. During teething, your baby may drool more, and show a desire to bite and chew on things. Your baby also may show signs of mild discomfort. By the age of 3, all 20 teeth should have emerged.

Many remedies are available for teething pain. Some popular folk remedies really do work, Dr. Domoto says. Experts recommend rubbing and cleaning the area where the teeth are erupting. Give the baby something clean and safe on which to bite. You might chill the teething ring, or even rub a clean finger on the sore gum.

Don't forget these important dental care tips, Dr. Domoto says:

  • Don't let the baby fall asleep while sucking a bottle with milk, formula, or sweet fluids. If you let sugary fluids sit in the baby's mouth, you increase the likelihood that the baby will suffer cavities.

  • If your child needs a bottle at bedtime, fill it with water. You also might try comforting the baby with a pacifier, toy, or blanket.

  • Check with your dental provider to make sure your child is getting the right amount of fluoride.

  • Clean the teeth as they erupt. Use a damp washcloth or toothbrush.

  • Once your baby's teeth have erupted, brush them with a soft toothbrush every day. You'll need to do this for your child because children are usually not able to brush their teeth well until they are 8. If your dentist agrees, use a tiny dab of fluoride-free toothpaste until the child can spit, then switch to fluoride toothpaste.

  • Be sure to check your child's teeth regularly for any chalky white or brown spots that could be the beginning of decay.

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