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Top tips for teething

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Babies usually begin teething between six and nine months. Here's how to spot the signs, and advice on how to comfort your baby.

First teeth

Your baby's teeth are likely to start to appear in the second half of her first year. Some babies may start earlier, others not until nine to 12 months.

Front teeth first

The first teeth to appear are usually the two front teeth at the bottom, then the two at the top. Most babies have eight teeth by their first birthday and the milk set is usually complete by two-and-a-half to three years – but some variation is completely normal, so don't worry.

Signs of teething

  • Grizzling – for a few days or even weeks before a tooth appears, while it works its way through the gum. 
  • Flushed cheeks – and she may pull on her ears as a sign that she is in pain.
  • Painful or swollen gums with white or opaque bumps. 
  • Dribbling more than usual.
  • Slightly raised temperature – but not fever (over 38°C).
  • A change in bowel motions (although there is no research to prove this).
  • Nappy rash.
  • Changes in feeding patterns.
  • Waking in the night.
  • Rash on the face or chin.
  • Chewing on toys and fingers.

Teething remedies

  • Offer a plastic teething ring or a stick of carrot, cucumber, apple or celery to chew, straight from the fridge – the coolness has a mild numbing effect. 
  • If you're out and can't get hold of anything chilled, offer your baby a finger to chomp on – make sure your hands are clean.
  • Teething gels, available over the counter from your pharmacist, contain a small amount of local anaesthetic; apply straight onto your baby's gums.
  • Infant ibuprofen or paracetamol, when necessary.
  • Lots of cuddles and sympathy.

What not to do

  • Never keep a teething ring in the freezer, or give your baby ice or frozen food, as this could cause freezer burns.
  • Don't give your baby medicines as a matter of routine – try other methods first.
  • Don't ignore things if your baby seems to be in a lot of pain, has a fever or is obviously unwell; see your GP or health visitor.
  • Don't rub alcohol on your baby's gums – a baby's liver cannot tolerate alcohol and this could be very dangerous.

Looking after baby teeth

  • It's never too soon to start tooth care. Once teeth have broken through the gums, squeeze a tiny bit of fluoride baby toothpaste onto a piece of muslin and rub gently in a circular motion, every day. Because your baby will swallow the toothpaste, keep the amount to a minimum.
  • When the teeth have more fully erupted, buy a soft-bristled baby toothbrush and clean twice a day in a gentle rotating motion. Let her chew on the toothbrush – she needs to get used to having something in her mouth that isn't food!
  • There's no need for your baby to rinse, but offer her a drink of water after.
Most babies have eight teeth by their first birthday – but some variation is completely normal, so don't worry.

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