Teething is a natural process that everyone experiences early in life. It is a time when a child's first set of teeth, which are known as the primary teeth, break through the gums. This is a very stressful time for babies and also the parents who care for them.
One way to ease the stress associated with this event is to better understand it and its time frame. With understanding, parents can better help their babies to become comfortable and better adjust to the teething process.
The teething process can be broken down into five stages. The first of these stages occurs from birth to the eruption of the first teeth, which typically takes place between four to six months. During the first stage, the baby's teeth are just below the surface of the gums. There are 20 of these teeth, which makes for a full set. The second stage occurs at the time that the baby cuts their first teeth. These are the upper and lower incisors, and with them come the first signs of teething discomfort as well as mild drooling. During stage three, the primary molars erupt. Babies may seem more cranky and overall teething symptoms may seem greater at this stage. Between 16 to 22 months the canines appear. This is considered stage four of the teething process. At 25 to 33 months, the molars make their appearance during what is considered the fifth and final stage. Because of their size, these teeth may be the most uncomfortable for toddlers. Teething typically comes to an end when the baby is between two to three years old.
Symptoms of Teething
When a baby begins to teethe, several things begin to happen to them. Generally, they experience discomfort in their gums around where the tooth will erupt. This can cause them to be irritable and fussy. The area of discomfort will often have a red appearance and become swollen. In some cases, the area may also develop a fluid sac on the gums over where the tooth will erupt. Parents may notice that their baby begins to drool more excessively, and a rash may develop around the mouth as a result of the drooling. The baby may also experience difficulty sleeping or a lack of appetite, which is often directly related to the discomfort in their gums.
How to Soothe a Teething Baby
As teething is a very uncomfortable time for babies, parents will naturally want to soothe that discomfort and any associated pain. This can be done by rubbing a dampened cool cloth along the gums. Rubbing a clean finger over the baby's gum line can also be soothing. Another option is to give them something cool to to chew on. A teething ring made of rubber is one option; however, parents should avoid gel-filled rings, which can rupture while in the baby's mouth. In some instances, medication may be necessary. Over-the-counter options are available and include small amounts of teething gel or acetaminophen with doctor approval. Teething gels offer very minimal relief, as the constant drooling caused by teething often quickly washes away the gel. Parents must also use caution when attempting to soothe a baby with cold items. Objects used for this should never go directly from the freezer into the baby's mouth.
What to Feed a Teething Baby
Babies who are eating solid foods can be fed soft foods that won't hurt their sensitive gums. Depending on the age of the child, pureed fruits, meats, and vegetables are good choices for younger babies who are teething. Applesauce, mashed potatoes, and yogurt are also soft foods that are good for teething babies. Babies may be given roughly three ounces of juice daily in addition to milk or formula. Juice and milk should not, however, be used to soothe a baby or be given to a baby as a way to help with sleep. This can cause problems such as cavities or decay of the baby's new teeth. Babies who are eight months old or older may be given teething biscuits or teething crackers, which are also helpful with soothing the discomfort of teething.