Why Baby Teeth Need Babying
Even though they eventually fall out, primary (baby) teeth play several vital roles in your child's development. Among other things, they serve as important guides for the developing permanent teeth that will replace them. If any are lost prematurely, the remaining baby teeth start to shift, migrating forward, decreasing the space necessary for the permanent teeth to erupt into their proper positions. This could result in a need for future orthodontics that may have been unnecessary. So it's important to keep primary teeth healthy and in place until they are ready to come out naturally.
Signs & Symptoms of Teething
Primary (baby) teeth typically begin emerging between six and nine months, though as early as three or as late as 12 months can occur. Usually, but not necessarily, the two lower front teeth appear first. All 20 primary teeth are generally in by the age of three.
Some typical signs of teething include: irritability, gum swelling, gnawing, drooling (due to increased saliva production), chin (facial) rash (due to excessive drooling), disrupted sleeping patterns, ear rubbing, and decreased appetite. Symptoms generally start about four days before a tooth emerges, are most intense during the week when the tooth breaks through the gum, and subside about three days following the event.
You may notice small, bluish, translucent “eruption cysts” on your baby's gum where a tooth is breaking through; sometimes blood mixes with the fluid in a cyst, at which point it's called an eruption hematoma. Both generally disappear on their own when the tooth erupts and pops them.
Suggestions for Soothing
To help keep your teething baby as comfortable as possible, try the following:
- A chilled rubber teething ring, pacifier, or cold wet washcloth
- Gentle gum massage using a clean finger
- Cold foods like popsicles when your child is old enough (just be careful about feeding him or her too much sugar, which can cause decay even in newly emerging/emerged teeth)
- Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen in the appropriate dosage
The onset of teething is the perfect time to begin focusing on your child's pediatric dental care. Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, the quality of their care will have a direct and long-lasting impact on the health of the permanent teeth that follow.
If you would like more information about baby teething, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”