The appearance of your baby's first tooth is a major milestone in her development, and one that will likely see you sharing photographs with family, friends, and anyone else who may happen by! Unfortunately though, the arrival doesn't always go smoothly - it can be a testing time for both you and your baby, as there will inevitably be some discomfort involved, leading to yet more sleepless nights and grizzled behaviour.
There are usually some warning signs that a tooth is on its way, and these can include an increase in salivation or drooling, an intensified tendency for your baby to bite down on toys (or even people!), flushed cheeks and swollen gums, and a general malaise shown through loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping and irritability.
Many parents will tell you that teething is often accompanied by other problems such as stomach upsets or colds, although most medical experts say that there is no real connection, and that young children are more or less constantly fighting off one bug or another, and so any signs of illness appearing together with teething are probably just coincidences.
Teething generally starts at around 6 months, although as with all things related to babies and kids your own experience may vary. Indeed, a very few babies will be born sporting a tooth or two, while some may not see their first tooth emerge until their first birthday or even later. Whenever it starts, your baby will normally have a complete set of teeth by their third birthday, and these milk teeth will last until around the age of six, when they will begin to be replaced by adult teeth.
Although some infants sail through the whole teething process with little difficulty, for others it can be a real ordeal. Unfortunately there's nothing we as parents can do to speed the growth, but there are ways to relieve the discomfort a little.
The most traditional remedy for teething pain is a rubber biting ring, which works with your baby's natural inclination to bite down on things. A soft rubber ring provides a safe outlet for this urge, and keeping the ring in the refrigerator when not in use will also provide a cooling sensation.
Teething gel can also be applied to the gums, which can provide comfort, and can be smeared onto a dummy or pacifier if the biting reflex means direct application to the gums is risky for the parent!
Teething powders are also available, which consist of a sachet of crystals which you can pour into your baby's mouth, and seem to prove more effective than gels with some children.
Finally, you may find yourself having to resort to pain relief medication if the problem is severe. Be certain to use a medicine specifically formulated for babies of your child's age, and stick to the recommended dosage. Medicine which also induces drowsiness, such as anti-fever preparations, can also be very useful - especially at bed time.
Hopefully your own baby will not have too much difficulty developing a healthy toothy grin, but if you're finding teething is a problem, then remember that it doesn't last forever, and keep counting the teeth as they arrive!
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Simone writes for a parenting skills site, where you can read more on teething and other issues relating to babies and toddlers.
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