Tuesday 24 October 2017

Teething: The tooth of the matter

Teething baby
Teething baby

With teething, what are the main signs and symptoms to watch out for before your baby's teeth erupt and how can you help ease your little one's discomfort? Carmel Doyle reports

WHEN your baby cuts their first tooth it definitely is a milestone in their development, but the teething process can be a stressful time for both baby and parent, so what can you expect?

Dr Abigail Moore is a paediatric dentist who is also a new mum and her five-month old son is now teething.

While teething used to be blamed for complaints such as high temperatures, coughs, runny nappies and sleep disturbances, Moore says there is now little evidence to support this.

" The most common symptoms of teething are excess drooling, hands and fingers in the mouth, daytime restlessness, flushed cheeks and, on occasion, some loss of appetite. It is important that if a child has a fever or cough they have it checked out by a GP and it is not dismissed as a teething problem," she explains.

Moore says that normally a baby's first tooth will erupt in the mouth between six and nine months, but parents should expect a considerable range.

" Some children are even born with teeth or develop them very early and some children don't get a tooth until older than 12 months and then develop a full set of healthy teeth very quickly!"

She says the first signs of teeth are hard, white, lumpy areas underneath the gums, with these areas often visible long before the teeth actually erupt.

" Before a tooth pokes through the gum about two thirds of children will have some redness or tenderness in the gum over the tooth. Small gaps may also be seen in the gum just before a tooth appears."

Often, Moore says parents will suddenly notice a little white corner of tooth peeking through with no prior warning. " The bottom teeth usually come in before the corresponding teeth on the top," she explains. "A total of 10 top and 10 bottom teeth are usually present by three years of age."

What can help

In terms of treating a teething baby, what, if anything, can parents do to ease any distress their little one might be experiencing?

" When children are teething they will attempt to gnaw on everything! This is instinctive as biting helps break down the gum overlying the tooth and helps relieve the tenderness," explains Moore. "Any object that is easy to hold, has no sharp edges, is easily cleaned and has a pliable texture is good for baby."

She also says chilled toys can be beneficial or even frozen banana slices for older babies.

" Lots of people swear by damp, knotted face cloths put in the freezer. A drink of cooled water may provide relief, as well as replacing fluids if drooling has been excessive. There are also homeopathic remedies available."

Amber teething necklaces and bracelets are another natural way to relieve teething symptoms. You can get them from www.teethingsos. ie.

And what about paracetamol-containing medicines?

" If babies are very uncomfortable and distressed due to erupting teeth and are suffering from tenderness of the gums it can be useful to give oral liquid paracetamol (such as Calpol) in the recommended dose. Bear in mind it is important only to give this when absolutely necessary," Moore explains.

" Remember, if your child is not getting relief from this, is requiring multiple doses or has a high temperature you should seek advice from your GP as there may be another cause of the pain."

Finally, she says your child's first dental visit should happen when they are between one and two years of age to help get them off to a positive start.

To contact Dr Moore see www.paediatricdentist.ie or www.burlingtondentalclinic.com. Alternatively, call 01 668 4357

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