Baby's Gummy Grin
Snap some photos of your baby's gummy grin while you can because her first tooth will be here before you know it. And chances are, once she's in the throes of teething, she won't be smiling quite as readily. Wondering what to expect? We've pulled together the top five things you should know about this potentially painful process.
It Actually Starts Sooner Than You Think
Your baby's teeth begin to develop before most people know you're expecting. Tooth buds start forming around the fifth to sixth week of pregnancy, but the bottom front teeth (incisors) will likely show up when your child is 4 to 8 months old. "Some babies start teething as early as 2 months and some as late as 14 months. There's a wide range of normal," says Carrie Beatty, M.D., a pediatrician in San Antonio.
No Two Babies Teethe Alike
There's no telling how your child will react to teething. Some have more severe symptoms than others, as Lori Fazeli, a mom from Belmont, California, found when her twins' teeth came in. Her daughter Arianna's broke through first, but it didn't seem to bother her. But her son, Dariush, was very fussy, put everything in his mouth, and drooled constantly for two and a half months.
It's normal for a child to go into saliva overdrive, cry a lot, chew on everything within reach, have swollen (and possibly bleeding) gums, and have trouble sleeping and eating. Other symptoms include a runny nose, watery stool (this could be from swallowing some of that excess drool), and a low-grade fever. It's not unusual for a baby to have a fever of 101 degrees F on the day a tooth erupts. But be careful not to attribute every fever to teething. "A child who is really sick probably has something else going on," says Paul Casamassimo, D.D.S., chief of dentistry at Nationwide Children's Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio. Talk to your pediatrician if your baby's fever is higher than 101 degrees F (or if he's under 3 months and it's over 100.4 degrees F).
If it Hurts, You Really Can Help
There are plenty of ways to soothe your baby's sore gums. Try giving her a cold, wet washcloth or a chilled, soft-tip baby spoon to chew on, which will help calm the inflammation and numb the pain. Putting pressure on the area also helps -- which is why teething babies chew on everything in sight. If you're brave, offer up a clean finger or thumb for her to gnaw on or gently rub the area.
Teething rings and toys are a smart investment; look for simple designs without any parts that can come loose. To make them extra effective, put them in the refrigerator first. You can also try over-the-counter medications such as teething drops, tablets, or topical numbing gels, but be sure to use the correct dosage. "If you use a topical numbing medication, try to put it directly on the gums," says Parents adviser Jennifer Shu, MD., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. "If you get it on your baby's tongue, it can cause her to gag or choke."
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It's Not That Hard to Stop a Biter
New teeth mean your baby has a new skill -- biting. "Your child doesn't realize that it hurts," says Parents adviser Jennifer Shu, MD., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. "Babies bite to relieve tension, and they'll chomp on whatever's in sight." it may be particularly challenging when you're nursing, but if you stick with it and set limits, you can keep him from biting.
Try this: Before a feeding, put a finger in your baby's mouth. if he wants to bite, have a teething ring or a toy ready. When you start feeding him, if he tries to use his teeth, firmly say "no biting." After two or three attempts, pick him up, say "no," and wait ten to 15 minutes before trying to nurse again. He'll get the message within a few feedings.
Baby Teeth Need TLC
Once your baby's first tooth breaks through, it's time to get into the habit of brushing. Clean your baby's teeth twice a day (after breakfast and at bedtime) with cotton gauze or a soft-bristled infant toothbrush. You don't have to worry about flossing until her teeth start touching.
Now's the time to make your first dentist visit too. The American Academy of Pediatric dentistry recommends scheduling your child's first appointment after her first tooth appears and before her first birthday. Tooth decay is on the rise among kids (a 2007 report from the Centers for disease Control and prevention found tooth decay in 28 percent of children ages 2 to 5), so getting in to see the dentist early can help head it off. Although baby teeth aren't permanent fixtures, don't underestimate their importance: Besides helping your child eat, smile, and speak properly, they are vital placeholders for developing adult teeth. Caring for them will prevent decay and premature loss, which could cause expensive orthodontic problems later on.
Copyright © 2010 Meredith Corporation.