There’s nothing like baby’s first gummy smile to brighten up a room. On second thoughts, there’s nothing like the appearance of baby’s first tooth to bring forth applause from parents, siblings and grandparents. Teething is a bittersweet affair; one minute we’re celebrating the arrival of teeth, the next we’re trying to cope with the discomfort and misery of the process.
Some babies are actually born with teeth! Not that it’s common, but it does happen and can be disconcerting when parents see their newly born bub, mouth wide open, and a couple of teeth waving back! Some littlies welcome their teeth somewhat later and in fact, can reach their first birthday with nothing to show for it but the same gummy smile. In this case, it’s advisable to seek professional advice, probably even by around nine months of age.
Normally, however, teething begins around the sixth month, which is quite appropriate considering sixteen weeks is a good age to start introducing solid foods and some teeth will come in handy for eating. Of course, some parents begin solids sooner than this, but early childhood professionals advise that the digestive system is sufficiently developed by around four months to successfully start offering mushy foods.
Babies are born with twenty primary teeth, also known as milk teeth or baby teeth, all intact, beneath the surface of gums. As for when they will begin poking through, hereditary is thought to be a factor. You’ll commonly hear grandparents commenting ‘Oh your Daddy’s teeth came through at the same age’ or similar reports. Generally speaking, teeth will come through in groups of four; central incisors first, followed by lateral (side) incisors, upper and lower molars, canines and then back molars. Don’t panic if your child doesn’t follow this pattern, but do seek regular checkups with your family doctor or dentist, just to keep a good eye on progress.
There is no need to wean a nursing baby just because teething begins. Babies instinctively know how to suckle without biting, but if you find that those teeth are making themselves known, simply call up your lactation consultant or family doctor to ask for hints.
Teeth need to be cleaned, regardless of the age of the child. Good oral hygiene practices must start as soon as teeth appear, to prevent decay. Cleaning your baby’s teeth is as simple as wiping them over with a soft cloth on the end of your finger. This will also help baby to become accustomed to having them cleaned, so that when you introduce an infant toothbrush and mild toothpaste, you can make it fun and enjoyable. Just because infant teeth are not permanent, doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Good habits become firmly set at an early age.
With proper care, your baby’s teeth will be as beautiful when the tooth fairy comes to collect them, as they were when they first popped into view.