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Teething In Infants

  • Definition

    'teething' is the period during which infants' teeth grow and break through the gums.


    The teething process is quite different in different babies. One chews, frets, and drools for 3 or 4 months before each tooth comes through, and makes life miserable for the whole family. In another case, a mother discovers a tooth one fine morning without ever having suspected that her baby was teething. One baby gets the first tooth at 3 months, another not till 1 year. Yet both are healthy, normal infants.

    It is true that certain diseases once in a while influence the age of teething. But this is rare. In a baby who is reasonably healthy, the age of teething is simply a matter of the pattern of development the child was born with. In one family, most of the children teethe early - in another, late.

    The average baby gets the first tooth around 7 months, but has been drooling, biting, and having periods of fretfulness from the age of 3 or 4 months. Since babies get twenty teeth in their first two and a half years, it is easy to see that they are teething most of that whole period. This also explains why it is so easy to blame every ailment on teething.

    Usually the first two teeth are the lower central incisors. After a few months come the four upper incisors. The average baby has these six teeth, four above, and two below, at about a year old.

    After this, there is usually a pause of several months. Then six more teeth are apt to come in, without much pause in between - the two remaining lower incisors, and all four first molars. The molars do not come in next to the incisor teeth but farther back, leaving a space for the canine teeth.

    After the first molar teeth, there is a pause of several months before the canines come through the space between the incisors and the molars. The commonest time is the second half of the second year.

    The last four teeth in the baby set are the second molars. They come in right behind the first molars, usually in the first half of the third year.

    Sometimes parents think that it is their duty to keep their baby from putting things in the mouth and chewing. This notion will surely drive the parents and the baby frantic in time. Most babies must put things in their mouths, off and on, at least from 6 to 15 months. The best that a parent can do is to provide chewable objects that are dull enough so that if the baby falls with them in the mouth there will be no damage. Rubber teething rings of various shapes are good, but any piece of rubber that the baby can hold will easily do. The kind containing water that can be but in the refrigerator is particularly useful because it can reduce pain.

    One should be careful about toys made from thin, brittle plastic in that they can break off and be swallowed, causing the baby to choke.

    It also is important not to allow the baby to gnaw paint off of furniture or walls or moldings if there is any danger that the paint may be made with lead.

    Some babies prefer a certain kind of cloth for chewing on. Or, you can tie an ice cube or a piece of apple in a square of cloth. Let the baby have what she seems to want as long as it is not dangerous.

    There is no need to worry about germs on a teething ring or favorite piece of cloth in that they are the baby's own germs anyway.

    Rubbing a bit of brandy, scotch, or other spirits, on the aching gums - a popular folk remedy for teething - is not recommended for children at any age. Homeopathic remedies are available and non-toxic, but their effectiveness is not known. Over-the-counter teething drops containing mild anesthetics are also available and appear to be useful and well-tolerated by most babies.

    While teething might be associated with nasal symptoms, teething definitely does not cause fever. That belief is a potentially dangerous myth. Fever is an indication of infection.


    Are the baby's teeth erupting normally?

    Which teeth will come next?

    What can be done to alleviate the baby's discomfort?

    What can the baby safely suck and chew on?

    Can you prescribe any soothing medication?