The time when babies get their first primary teeth (milk teeth) varies. Most get their first tooth at around six months, usually in the front and at the bottom. Most toddlers will have all their primary teeth around two and a half. There are twenty primary teeth in all, ten at the top and the same at the bottom. You can expect the first permanent ‘second’ teeth to come through at about six years of age.
Many teeth will come through with no pain or trouble at all. At other times you may notice that the gum is sore and red where the tooth is pushing through under the gum. Your baby might look flushed on one cheek and may dribble, gnaw and chew a lot, or just be unsettled. However it is hard to tell whether this is really due to teething.
It can help to give your baby something to chew on such as a teething ring, some of which are designed to go in the fridge to cool your babies gums, but do not put them in the freezer as this is too cold for babies gums and may make the product too hard. A crust of bread or a peeled carrot is another idea (always beware of choking). Avoid rusks because most contain sugar. Constant chewing on sugary things can cause tooth decay.
Babies over 4 months can try teething gel and sugar free Paracetamol and/or Ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the bottle and if you are not sure about anything please talk to your GP, Pharmacist or Health Visitor.
People put all sorts of symptoms and behaviour down to teething for example rashes, bad temperature, crying, runny noses, extra bad nappies, but please be careful not to explain away what might be the tell, tail signs of an illness by saying it’s ‘just teething’. If you are not sure in any way it is always good to ask, if only to set your mind at rest.
Cleaning your little one’s teeth
As soon as your baby’s teeth start to come through, you can start brushing them. Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.
Don’t worry if you don’t manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to teeth brushing as part of their daily routine. You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.
- Use a tiny smear of toothpaste for babies and a pea-sized amount for children.
- Gradually start brushing your child’s teeth more thoroughly, covering all the surfaces of the teeth. Do it twice a day: just before bed, and at another time that fits in with your routine.
- Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to keep trying. Don’t let it turn into a battle. Instead, make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.
- The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee with their head resting against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head upwards.
- Brush the teeth in small circles covering all the surfaces and let your child spit the toothpaste out afterwards. Rinsing with water has been found to reduce the benefit of fluoride.
Carry on helping your child brush their teeth until you’re sure that they can do it well enough themselves. This will normally be until they’re at least seven.
A trip to the dentist
NHS dental treatment for children is free. It is good to take your child with you when you go for your own dental appointments, so they get used to the idea, then when it’s their turn it won’t be a big thing!