The appearance of your baby’s first tooth is one of the most exciting milestones. But it’s important not to compare your little one to his peers because not all babies get their teeth at the same time.
- Excessive drooling
- Unusually irritable and niggly
- Loss of appetite
- Red gums before tooth emerges
- Chews fingers and toys more
- Pulls cheeks and ears.
Baby’s first teeth
After your baby’s first tooth erupts at about six months, you can expect a period of one to two months before the next one.
The order in which your baby’s teeth appear can vary, but typically the first teeth are the bottom two in the middle followed by the top two in the middle. The upper lateral incisors will come out next followed by the bottom lateral incisors. The top and bottom molars then appear followed shortly after by the eye teeth.
At the age of about 2½ to 3 years, your little one will have a complete set of 20 primary teeth.
Sometimes your baby’s first tooth might not have come through before his first birthday. But this is nothing to worry about:
“A small percentage of babies only get their first teeth after 12 months. If your child is healthy and thriving, you can wait a bit longer for the teeth to erupt before you get concerned,” says Dr Vala.
But if your little one’s teeth haven’t come through by 16 months, it’s best to take him for a visit to the dentist.
Born with a front tooth
Occasionally some babies are born with a front tooth. It’s usually not a problem if the tooth is firmly attached to the gum.
Teething not associated with illness
Apart from the usual teething symptoms, three to four days before the first teeth erupt, your baby shouldn’t get ill after the teeth come through:
Fever, vomiting, and diarrhoea aren’t symptoms of teething. If your baby has diarrhoea and vomits, or has a persistent fever that doesn’t get better with medication, take him to the doctor because it may be the start of a stomach bug or other illness.
Caring for little teeth
It’s important to start with dental care while your baby is still young, even before the first tooth erupts, says Dr Vala. You don’t have to start using toothpaste while he’s still young, but you can start by gently rubbing his teeth with a soft cloth. When he’s older you can start using an infant toothbrush to clean his teeth.
You should only start using toothpaste when your child is able to spit out the toothpaste without swallowing it.
Apart from dental hygiene, you should also limit his sugar intake from a young age to prevent tooth decay. Get into the habit of cleaning his teeth twice daily.
- Teething rings are useful but let them thaw after being taken out of the freezer to avoid gum trauma.
- Teething gels can be useful but check the list of ingredients first because some contain local anaesthetic.
- Rub your little one’s gums with a cloth or finger for about two minutes if the tooth hasn’t erupted.
- A wet cloth, cooled in the fridge, makes excellent chewing material.
- Apples, carrots, or other raw vegetables are good to chew on for older babies.
- Ice lollies, cool purified food, and biltong can be given to older babies.
- Paracetamol and ibuprofen given in the correct doses can help severe teething pain.