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Teresa Shaw |15, April 2008



Teething can be a difficult time for both baby and parents. Teething is the process of new teeth rising or erupting from the gums. It can begin as early as two months of age, but usually occurs at around six to seven months of age.

How many baby teeth are there and which teeth come in first?

A total of 20 primary (first) teeth will emerge — 12 fewer than the full set of 32 permanent teeth that adults have. Most children will have a full set of primary teeth by about two or three years of age. These primary teeth usually last until about age six, when the baby teeth loosen and fall out as the second teeth begin to push through the gums. The primary teeth continue to fall out until around the age of 12.

The first tooth to come through is usually one of the front teeth. As the tooth cuts through the gums, the area may become inflamed and sensitive. The gums may appear slightly red or swollen over the tooth.

Lower teeth generally come in before upper teeth. Girls' teeth erupt earlier than those of boys.

How do I know if my baby is teething?

Signs and symptoms of teething include:

  • Increased drooling
  • Restless or decreased sleeping
  • Refusal of food
  • Fussiness or irritability
  • Biting, Chewing or sucking on hands or fingers
  • Rubbing of cheeks and/or pulling on ears
  • A mild rash around the mouth area (due to excess saliva)

Remember, all babies are different, and while one might show one symptom, another might show another. If you are concerned about your baby's teething, be sure to speak to your pediatrician.

What can I do to ease the pain and discomfort of Teething?

There are several remedies to ease the pain of teething for your little one. Try giving him or her a damp washcloth (put it in the freezer first to make it extra cold) or a cold teething ring filled with water (make sure that it is not anything that he or she could possibly choke on). Counter pressure or gentle rubbing of his or her gums with a clean finger or damp cloth may help to ease the discomfort as well.

Cold food sometimes helps to numb the gums as well — if your baby is eating solids, try chilled applesauce or pureed pears or peaches. It's more nutritious than a gel- or water-filled teething ring, and may help to relieve baby's pain.

When nothing else works, a little Infant Tylenol might do the trick — talk to your pediatrician about the proper amount to give to your baby. Baby Orajel and other teething pain medications that are applied to the gums may also help. Also check with your doctor before giving over the counter pain reliever to your baby.

Do I need to brush the teeth?

The American Dental Association recommends that parents brush the teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of water to prevent tooth decay. Toothpaste is not recommended for children under the age of two. After two years of age, supervise your child's brushing to ensure that he or she does not swallow any toothpaste.

Additionally, after your child's first tooth appears, but no later than his or her first birthday, the ADA suggests that children begin regular dental checkups.

The entire process of teething will last until your child is about three years old; however he or she might not experience the same levels of discomfort with every tooth. Try different methods of relief, and see which one works best for your baby.

Teresa Shaw is a professional editor and freelance writer with a degree in English and journalism. She writes about motherhood, travel, and cooking, among other topics, for a variety of print and online markets. She enjoys spending time with her husband, daughter, two cats, and dog.

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