There are severalbut also many myths surrounding this time in your baby’s development. Cutting teeth is a normal physiological function, which in large numbers of babies causes no problem whatsoever. Teething is, however, often blamed for a variety of symptoms which are totally unrelated.
It never, for example, causes a fever, diarrhoea or a continually miserable,baby. So, do not dread the arrival of your baby’s teeth-regard as one more important developmental step.
NUMBER OF TEETH
Everyone has two sets of teeth throughout their lives. The baby, or milk, teeth are twenty in number and are already present in the gums at birth. The permanent teeth are thirty-two in number and develop deep in the gums throughout the first years of life.
Babies vary a good deal as to when they start theprocess. Some babies are born with an erupted tooth already present. At the other find of the scale, some babies are toothless at one year old.
Teething, as so many other characteristics, is determined by the genes, and whatever you do, or do not do, cannot make any difference to the early or latepattern that your baby has inherited. As with most physical things, there is an average time for the eruption of the teeth. The pattern of the order of appearance of the teeth can vary.
Sometimes the upper side incisors erupt before the lower incisors. This is of no lasting importance, merely a variation of the normal. The most usual order for the teeth to appear is for the two lower central incisors to arrive first, and to be closely followed a month or two later by the two upper central incisors. Then, by one year old, the two lateral incisors in each jaw are present, so that by his first birthday a baby can usually show you eight teeth.
By eighteen months a baby has cut four of his molar (or chewing) teeth. The bigger canine teeth, in between the incisor (or), appear around the eighteen-month to twenty month-old mark. A brief pause of a few months is followed by the eruption of the four back molars to complete the set of twenty milk teeth.
USUAL SIGNS BABY IS TEETHING
Not all babies show that their teeth are erupting. The first hint you may have is when a spoon chinks on a brand-new tooth. Other babies do, however, exhibit certain signs that their teeth are on the way.
All babies dribble-but some do so more than others. This is a phase of development which normally ceases when the baby is around one year old. There is often an increase in the amount of dribble when the eruption of a tooth is imminent.
All babies chew their fists, and take any objects they are given straight to their mouths. They do this because it gives them pleasure. Some babies may seem to chew more during teething.
Occasionally one sees a baby with one bright red cheek. Often this flushing is associated with a tooth erupting.
HELP FOR TEETHING BABIES
Although most babies cut their teeth with a minimum of fuss, a few babies do seem to need extra comfort at this time. Crisp crusts and rusks to chew on at mealtimes can satisfy a baby’s need to have something in his mouth. Between meals, a hard clean teething ring will help.
Occasionally, when they are teething, babies can be fretful at bedtime. If he is still miserable after you have done your best to comfort him with a drink and a cuddle, give him the prescribed dose of junior aspirin, or one of the paracetamol mixtures. Beware that he does not get into the habit of crying just to get you upstairs for an extra cuddle.
NOT DUE TO TEETHING
There are certain conditions which are traditionally ascribed to the eruption of a tooth, but which. In fact, are not due to this cause and should never be ignored.
Convulsions are never due to teething. If your baby has a convulsion, always contact your doctor. The commonest cause for convulsions in this age group is a high fever which, in turn, is due to an infection somewhere in the body. It will need the skilled attention of your doctor to find and treat the cause.
Bronchitis is never caused by teething, although, of course, a baby may suffer from bronchitis whilst his teeth are erupting. Again, a doctor must be consulted.
Lack of appetite does not occur with teething either. You may notice, however, that your baby is a little wary of the spoon during the days immediately prior to the eruption of a tooth. The hardness of the spoon may be too much for a tender gum. He will not, however, refuse fluids at this time. so give him extra drinks and soft foods. If his lack of appetite extends to fluids as well as food, contact your doctor. This symptom may be the first sign of a throat, ear or urinary infection.
Remember that the teething process takes many months and that it is, therefore, possible that your baby will suffer from one form of illness or another during this time which has nothing to do with the eruption of his teeth.
As soon as a child’s first tooth erupts, buy a small, soft toothbrush and gently brush with an up-anddown movement. This keeps each new tooth perfectly clean and provides gentle stimulation for the gums. When old enough, help him with tooth-brushing after each main meal and at bedtime. This is a good habit to develop when young.
Avoid sticky, sweet food which will damage the teeth and cause obesity. It is particularly harmful for teeth to be subjected to a prolonged concentration of sweet substances. Dinky feeders filled with sweet fluid, for example, cause decay in a very short time. They will also establish a permanent liking for sugary, tooth-damaging foods.
Encouraging a child to chew on hard foods will ensure that his gums and teeth are kept in tip-top condition and able to perform the function for which they are made. First teeth are important. The removal of even one or two for reasons of decay, will alter the shape of your toddler’s mouth and, perhaps, interfere with the correct eruption of his second set of teeth.
Keep an eye forand learn how to spot other factors not associated with this process. Then you should be able to minimise the pain and not let anything else go untreated.