10 Top Tips for Teething
10 min read
By Nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed & The Mummy Dentist Dr Jemma Hook
Teething is never going to be nice – not for anyone – and although there isn’t anything you can do (or want to do) to stop it occurring, there may be a few remedies that might help to somewhat sooth the symptoms for your little one.
Both Jemma and I will look to answer all of your questions about teething, and give 5 top tips (each) to help your little one through the teething process.
What is teething?
Teething tends to be known as the process of an infant’s teeth appearing through the gums – they usually do this in pairs, and it can cause a lot of discomfort for babies.
Baby teeth actually start to develop from special cells early on in the first trimester of pregnancy (around week 6) – fascinating stuff, huh? However, the average time for a baby’s first tooth to start erupting is around 6 months. As with most milestones though, there is variation - some babies will get teeth appearing earlier, some later by a good few months. There are 20 teeth in the primary baby set and it’s around age 2 1/2 when the last back molar teeth come through.
What happens during teething?
Teething is a natural physiologic process and a tooth doesn’t actually ‘cut’ through the gum. It is a combination of factors that remodel the bone and soft tissues to form a pathway. When a tooth comes through the gums this is known as ‘tooth eruption’ and once the top part (or ‘crown’) of the tooth is in the mouth the root continues to grow underneath the gum for several months.
Teething is often used as a universal reason for a baby’s grumpy behaviour. It’s often what we refer to as parents when we just don’t know what’s up with our grizzly minis! It is also important to say that teething symptoms vary from baby to baby and even tooth to tooth. Often teeth will appear and baby has not shown any signs at all.
However, there are some signs and symptoms that might be a bit tell-tale that a tooth might be about to pop through. Features commonly associated with teething include;
- Increased chewing
- Increased drooling
- Disturbed sleep
- Change in eating habits
- Flushed or rosy cheeks
- Facial rash
- Ear pulling
- Changes in stools
- Inflamed gums
Appetite during teething
During this process babies’ appetites can be quite affected, which can cause even more concern for parents who are worried about babies not getting the energy and nutrients that they need day to day.
Mainly advice is to just go with the flow for a while and expect that your little one might be somewhat off their food. It’s important to try and ensure they stay hydrated, so keep offering plenty of milk and a little water with mealtimes as much as possible.
Charlotte's 5 Nutrition Tips during teething
- Cold fruits and veggies to chew on – If your little one loves their fruit and veg, try putting them in the fridge for a few hours once cooked and then getting them out nice and cold for baby to chew on. The inside of cucumbers work really well for this one, as do sticks of cold melon. These are often high water foods too, so can be helpful for hydrating baby.
- Smoothies, Soups and Stews may be your friend – although baby may have moved on from the puree stage, when baby’s teeth are hurting foods such as smoothie bowls, cool soups and stews might be easier for baby to eat during this time. It’s best to encourage baby to eat these off of a spoon, rather than as drinks.
- Fruit lollies – These can also really help to get some nutrients into baby’s diet and also to offer something cool to pop on baby’s sore gums. I usually blend some fruit and mix it with yogurt (and sometimes oats and nut butter) before popping it in a lolly mold and into the freezer.
- Dry foods with a little texture can often help too – foods such as oatcakes, crackers and breadsticks or veggie crisps can sometimes be helpful by offering a bit of texture for baby to rub on the gum. This can also help to add some energy into baby’s diet too. Sometimes teething is trial and error.
- Whatever works – when it comes to teething, it’s a little bit about loosening the reins and letting baby dictate mealtimes for a while. You can still offer a variety to your little one as much as possible, but know that they will only eat what they can manage. Avoid putting pressure on and focus on offering baby more milk if they want it and any of the above. Quite often yogurt and other dairy foods such as grated cheese and rice puddings may go down well during teething times too.
Jemma's 5 Dentist tips and tricks during teething
Teething is a tricky area to research and provide evidence for especially as babies can’t tell us how they feel or what they need. 5 approaches to managing teething symptoms are;
- Apply cool items to baby’s gums for soothing - cooled items applied onto the gums can cause local vasoconstriction which will ease inflammation. This could be with chilled teething toys or food stuffs. Baby dental wipes can also be used to gently soothe gums but they are not a substitute for brushing teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste. Ideally you should continue to brush your child’s teething during teething as brushing will remove plaque & food particles both of which could cause additional inflammation. And if your baby is drooling excessively ensure you wipe away so the drool doesn’t irritate their delicate facial skin.
- Apply gentle pressure by massaging - application of gentle counter pressure can offer relief from teething pain, in fact babies will often instinctively chew on their fingers! Teething toys can be used to have a mild pressurizing action: choose a solid silicone BPA free type toy (these are preferred to fluid filled rings which may leak). There are many different teething toys to choose from. Teething mitts are great for young babies who cannot yet grip onto a toy themselves. Some teethers have little raised bobbles and textured parts that can have a massaging effect on gums. Others are specially designed to reach the molar area towards the back of the mouth. Teething toys should obviously kept clean according to manufacturer’s instructions and only be used under supervision. Teething ‘jewellery’ should be used with caution as there may be choking or strangulation hazards.
- Give your little one lots of comfort - attention from caregivers can be highly effective for managing an upset baby - there’s nothing like a good cuddle! This is especially true at night if sleep is disturbed yet you don’t want to do anything that might make them more awake. Physical comforting and parental reassurance can produce oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin which can act as natural painkillers and mood boosters.
- Try using distractions - often when teething symptoms are occurring and a child is irritable a simple thing is to offer a stimulating distraction. Potential ideas for this could be playing with their favourite toys, songs, books or activities. A change of scenery or going outside for fresh air can be good for everyone!
- Try non-medical options and then medications - homeopathic teething powders or granules may helpful in soothing and easing a restless child although they do not have proven pain-relieving qualities. Teething gels have recently been reviewed and can now only be purchased from a pharmacy. The advice issued was to try other non-medicinal methods first and then gels are to be “used as a second line of treatment after discussion with and guidance of a healthcare professional”. Systemic pain relieving medication can be given for teething symptoms: sugar free liquid paracetamol is the medicine of choice with dose appropriate to baby’s age. Obviously if you think your child is unwell, seems in significant discomfort or has a high fever that is not resolving then please seek medical advice.
Once your baby has got their first teeth through, start brushing them twice daily using a baby-appropriate toothbrush and a flat smear of toothpaste. It is also an ideal time to go along for their first dental check-up so your family dentist can check on tooth development patterns and offer tailored toothbrushing and feeding advice. Don’t think babies are expected to behave perfectly at this visit but it’s good to go along ideally before their 1st birthday! If your baby is over 1 and hasn’t been seen just call your dental practice to arrange a visit soon.
Nutrition Consultant, Babease
Dr Jemma Hook
The Mummy Dentist