What to expect during teething
Some children sail through it, while others can become distressed by it. Arlene Harris offers some guidance on what to expect during teething
Of the many developmental stages babies go through, cutting their first teeth is often the hardest both for the infant and the parent. Some children have a relatively easy time bringing their teeth into the world, whereas for others the pain can be relentless and almost unbearable.
Ali Coughlan has three children - Harry (6), Nicole (2½) and Juliet (3 months) - and has had very different experiences while they were teething. Her youngest child is just on the cusp of developing teeth, her eldest breezed through the experience but her second child had a terrible time of it.
"Harry got all of his teeth with no problem at all," she says. "I didn't even notice him getting most of them and it never affected his form at any stage. Nicole was the opposite and we had a very hard time with her - she was up a lot at night-time, had both sore gums and a sore bum and was very irritable.
"I used a cool teething ring with Nicole and that worked very well. Once she started eating solids, I would give her some chilled raw vegetables such as carrot to gnaw on and she always loved that. Sometimes when it got really bad, I would stick my clean finger in her mouth and rub her gums gently to help relieve the pain. I imagine I will be doing very much the same this time around with Juliet."
Ali, who has just published her first book, Get Crafty, an art and craft book for children of all ages, says her youngest is nearly showing new teeth and is coping with it quite well so far.
"Juliet is now 12 weeks old and has started teething already," says the Wicklow woman. "She is dribbling like crazy and soaking through a couple of bibs a day. There is no sign of any actual teeth although I can see the little buds under her gums, but it doesn't seem to be affecting her form yet which is good as she is too young to manage a teething ring - she can grip on to it, but she isn't quite managing to get it into her mouth yet - I'm really hoping this time around it will be as easy as the first time with Harry."
Babies develop teeth at different times and can have very different reactions. The HSE has a list of guidelines to help both parents and infants get through this difficult time.
"Your baby may start teething from about 13 weeks, although no teeth may appear until six months or more," says a spokeswoman. "Try giving your child something to chew on such as a cool teething ring - but make sure to use teething rings which are big enough so your child will not choke on them. Keep a spare clean one in the fridge but not in the freezer, as this will be too cold.
"You can also massage your child's sore gums with a sugar-free teething gel and if dribbling is a problem, wipe your baby's chin frequently to prevent a rash developing. Use mild sugar-free pain relief if your child wakes at night and is irritable but make sure to contact your doctor or pharmacist for information on the safe use of gels and pain relief.
"Disturbed sleep, feeding irritability and swollen tender gums are common when your baby is teething. However, if additional symptoms such as fever, convulsions or diarrhoea are present, consideration should be given to other causes and medical advice sought."
Symptons of teething
• Red, flushed cheeks
• Dribble, which may lie in the skin folds on your baby's neck, causing soreness
• Chewing on their fists or on their toys more than usual
• Sore and tender gums
• Nappy rash
• Disturbed sleep
By about 2 to 2½-years-old your child will have the full set of 20 teeth - 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom. And it is important to begin a routine of dental hygiene as soon as the teeth have emerged.
Caring for baby teeth
* Do not use fluoride toothpaste to clean your baby's teeth before two years of age unless specifically recommended by your dentist.
* As soon as the first tooth emerges, brush the teeth gently twice per day using just water and a small toothbrush. Good habits started early last a lifetime. The night-time brush is the most important to establish as food left on teeth at night can cause tooth decay rapidly.
* Once baby reaches two years of age, brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste at least twice each day.
* Parents need to supervise children from two years to seven years when brushing with toothpaste, and swallowing of toothpaste should be avoided.
* If baby uses a bottle, do not use it as a comforter and do not let baby sleep or nap with a bottle in the mouth.
* Never put sweet drinks, including fruit juice, into the bottle. Juices contain sugar, which can damage teeth. Never give fizzy drinks.
* Milk and water are the most tooth-friendly drinks. Give cooled boiled water until baby is one year old.
* Start using a cup from six-months-old and wean your baby off bottle feeding by 12 months.
* Do not add sugar to baby's food.
* If your baby uses a dummy or comforter, never dip it in sugar, syrup, honey, jam or anything sweet.
* Read food labels carefully. Sugar causes dental decay. Sugar may also be called sucrose, glucose, fructose or maltose on labels. 'Low sugar' or No Added Sugar on the label does not mean that the food and drink is sugar-free.
* Remember that tooth decay is totally preventable but not without effort. Babies are not born with a 'sweet' tooth. Avoid giving your baby a 'sweet' tooth.
Useful links: www.hse.ie and www.dentalhealth.ie