Your baby’s first year is marked by many wonderful milestones. One of the most memorable of these is seeing your little one’s first tiny tooth twinkle at you in a sweet smile. Your teething baby is also on the brink of many other exciting milestones, including the introduction of weaning food.
Your teething baby: What teething means for a baby’s growth and development
The first tooth does not erupt at the same age for all babies. Generally, babies start the teething process at around seven months, but some might get their first tooth when they’re 12 months old or more. All 20 primary teeth are usually grown by the time your little one hits two or three years old.
Teeth are important for your little one’s growth for a few reasons1. Healthy primary teeth allow your baby to eat and enjoy a variety of food. He can now bite through food and chew them properly. This also allows you to introduce foods with various textures, graduating from soft mashes or purees to regular food, enabling a healthy diet for your baby.
Healthy teeth are also needed for the development of your child’s speech and language skills which is an important developmental milestone. They also give your little one a beautiful smile which can help boost self-esteem, as can the ability to communicate well.
Your little one’s primary teeth have another important role, which is to create and keep space for permanent teeth, helping them to form in the right spot in the gums. It’s important to keep those primary teeth cavity-free too as this can have an impact on the health of permanent teeth. Dental decay (caries) is caused mostly by bacteria on your little one’s teeth. Research2 showed that dental caries in baby teeth delay the development of permanent teeth. Severe infections in baby teeth may require antibiotics, which can throw off the balance of your little one’s gut flora, affecting immunity and health.
Common issues faced when dealing with a teething baby
Teething can typically be a difficult time for babies as those primary teeth break through the gums. There are signs associated with a teething baby and things you can do to bring about relief for your little one.
Signs of teething include drooling, swollen, and red gums. Your baby might want to chew on various objects to relieve the discomfort. A teething baby might also be cranky and irritable. Some teething babies might not want to eat or be fed. If you notice your little one pulling on his ears, this could also mean that he is teething.
Tips to relieve your teething baby’s discomfort
Wash your hands well first and gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger.
- Avoid using teething necklaces as these pose a choking risk if the beads come off.
- Do not rub honey on your baby’s gums if they are under the age of one year as this may pose the risk of botulism.
- Do not use teething gels or tablets as these may be unsafe for your baby.
- Never rub alcohol or aspirin on your baby’s gums.
- If you feel your little one is in a lot of pain, check with a paediatrician before offering pain relief like paracetamol.
Once your baby’s primary teeth appear, it’s important that you start practising good dental hygiene.3
- As soon as the first tooth emerges, start a routine of teeth cleaning. Use a clean, soft, damp cloth to gently wipe the tooth/teeth and gums or you could use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush dampened with water.
- Follow this routine twice a day.
- If your baby uses a dummy, never dip it into sweet substances before giving it to your child.
- Avoid giving your baby sugary foods and drinks as much as possible and keep a lookout for signs of childhood caries on your little one’s teeth. These may appear as a dull white band or a yellow, black, or brown band close to the gum, or teeth that look like black/brown stumps (a sign of advanced decay).
As challenging as teething may be for both your baby and you, it is still a major milestone that you should cherish and remember forever. Don’t forget to have your camera ready to snap a picture of your baby’s first tooth flashed in a smile for the first time.
1 Department of Health, Government of Western Australia. Teething and your baby. Accessed on 26th February, 2022 fromhttps://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/S_T/Teething-and-your-baby
2 Dhamo, B. et al. Does dental caries affect dental development in children and adolescents? Bosn J Basic Med Science. Published in May 2018. Accessed on 26th February 2022 fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5988540/
3BetterHealth Channel. Tooth Decay – Young Children. Accessed on 27th February, 2022 from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/tooth-decay-young-children