Teething is an essential developmental milestone in a baby's life that brings both excitement and challenges for parents. Understanding the stages of teething is crucial to providing comfort and support.
Read more to learn about the various stages of teething, common symptoms, and practical tips to help you navigate this exciting yet sometimes challenging time.
How Long Do Teething Stages Last?
Teething starts at around six months and lasts up to three years. Teething, however, is not a continuous process.
The Pre-teething Stage
Before the first tooth emerges, babies go through a pre-teething phase. This stage typically starts around five to six months of age and is an essential preparation period for the eventual eruption of teeth. While you may not see any teeth yet, tooth development is already underway beneath the gums.
During the pre-teething stage, you may notice signs that indicate your baby is ready for teething. One common symptom is increased drooling. Your baby's salivary glands become more active, leading to excessive drooling. Keep a bib or cloth handy to remove the drool and prevent skin irritation.
Gum sensitivity is another characteristic of the pre-teething stage. Your baby's gums may appear red or swollen and show discomfort when you apply pressure. You may notice your baby gnawing on their fingers, toys, or any object they can touch. This behavior is their way of soothing their irritated gums.
Establishing good oral hygiene habits is crucial for supporting your baby during the pre-teething stage. Even though there are no visible teeth, gently wiping your baby's gums with a clean, damp cloth after feedings can help remove any milk residue or bacteria.
You provide safe and age-appropriate toys for your baby to chew on. Look for teething toys made of non-toxic materials, such as silicone or natural rubber. These toys provide a safe surface for your baby to gnaw on and can help alleviate gum discomfort.
The Eruption of the First Tooth
Around six to ten months, the first tooth usually makes its appearance. Each baby experiences this exciting milestone differently. Some infants may experience minimal discomfort, while others may have symptoms like irritability, swollen gums, and changes in sleep patterns.
Teething rings made of silicone or natural rubber provide babies with a safe and satisfying surface to chew on. When refrigerated or frozen, cold washcloths can also offer relief by numbing the gums.
The Teething Progression
The teething process continues after the initial tooth eruption as more teeth emerge. Typically, babies develop their front teeth first, followed by the lateral incisors, molars, and finally, the canines. The teething progression can last until the complete set of primary teeth is around two to three years old. Each tooth eruption may cause some discomfort, but the intensity of symptoms depends on the tooth coming in, generally the molars cause more discomfort.
You must take care of your baby's changing nutritional needs during teething. As they start taking solid foods, offer them soft and easy-to-chew options like mashed fruits and vegetables, purees, and well-cooked grains. These foods provide nutrition and help relieve gum pressure as the baby chews on them.
Tips to Soothe a Teething Baby
Here are some ways to soothe your baby when they are teething:
Apply a cold compress to your baby's gums to provide relief. You can use a clean, chilled washcloth or a chilled teething ring. The coolness helps numb the gums and ease discomfort.
Gently massage your baby's gums with clean fingers. Apply light pressure in a circular motion to help alleviate teething pain. Make sure your hands are clean to maintain oral hygiene.
Offer safe teething toys made of non-toxic materials for your baby to chew on. Look for toys with different textures to provide other sensations. Chewing on these toys can help counteract the pressure and soothe sore gums.
Introduce cold, soft foods to your baby's diet. Chilled pureed fruits, yogurt, or refrigerated teething biscuits can relieve and soothe their gums. Always supervise your baby while they eat to ensure their safety.
Engage your baby in activities that divert their attention from teething discomfort. Play with them, sing songs, or read books to keep their focus away from the pain. This can help alleviate their fussiness.
Pain Relief Options
Consult with your pediatrician about appropriate pain relief options if your baby is experiencing significant discomfort. They may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers.
Maintaining a comforting bedtime routine and providing extra cuddles and reassurance during this time can help ease any discomfort or anxiety your baby may be experiencing.
Role of Pediatricians in Supporting Parents and Babies During Teething
Pediatricians and pediatric dentists can guide and advise on the best practices for managing teething discomfort and ensuring the child's overall well-being. They can educate parents about the typical signs and symptoms of teething, helping them differentiate between teething-related issues and other health concerns. They may recommend safe teething toys or chilled objects to soothe sore gums and advise on appropriate pain relief options if necessary.
The dental specialist also monitors the baby's oral health, providing guidance on proper oral hygiene practices and suggesting when to start brushing with a toothbrush. They are a trusted resource for parents, offering reassurance and addressing concerns or questions during this critical developmental stage.
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