Teething. As parents we are filled with trepidation on hearing the word. Everybody has heard horror stories from friends relating this period. Teething can be very diverse, ranging from sleepless nights to exclamations like “Gosh, she’s got a tooth coming through! Whenever did it erupt?”

Regarding teething, the most important rule to be laid down is that there is no rule! All children are different, much in the same way as we adults are different too. Every child has their unique pace of development. In some of them primary teeth erupt as early as at the age of 3 or 4 months, but it will not qualify as abnormal if this only occurs at the age 1 year.

We have collected some of the symptoms and treatment modalities in an attempt to help those having a hard time tiding over the teething period.

What actually is teething?

Teething is the process in which all 20 primary teeth erupt.

When does teething begin and how long does it last?

Teething usually starts between the age of 3 or 4 months and lasts till the age of 3. Generally speaking babies have six teeth less than the months of their age.

Babies already chew intensively at the age of 3 or 4 months with increased salivation due to their little teeth budging about underneath the gums, but yet to erupt. The unpleasant symptoms actually coincide with budging teeth, that is, the preliminary phase, rather than eruption itself. When the teeth do erupt, it is very seldom followed by pain or minor bleeding. The process of eruption usually spans 4 to 7 days, the painful preliminary phase, on the other hand, may take up to 2 to 3 weeks. Overall, a new little tooth erupts every 4 weeks. But remember the golden rule that there is no rule J)

What are the symptoms associated with teething?

There are as many symptoms as there are children. There is no agreement between the doctors and parents in this regard. While one child is running high fever the other one has a runny, sneezing nose and a cough. It may also occur that only one symptom presents itself, but a child may well experience the whole range of the symptoms listed below.

Red, inflamed, sore gums turning white

Local symptoms of teething include mucosal and gingival inflammation. Your baby’s gums grow bluish or purplish and sore to the touch. Before the tooth erupts the gum grows white and that peculiar white strip appears and the metal spoon clinks.

With more severe inflammations topical anti-inflammatory gels are recommended, such as OSA gel, Dologel. These contain natural ingredients and no lidocaine or sugar.

When applying Stadelmann’s tooth oil, it is important not to spread it on the gums but on the facial skin.

Over-the-counter products include: Dentinox gel (for babies younger than 4 motnhs), Gengigel or other topical lidocaine and herbal products. The effect of such products is short-lived but they will stand you in good stand when your baby is about to go to sleep.

When all else fails, you might want to consider paracetamol or ibuprofen based pain killers (e.g. Nurofen, Algoflex baby, Panadol baby, etc.). It is important to adhere to the manufacturer’s specifications as to body weight and age, and not to administer such products for over 4 days.

Increased salivation, reddening, facial rash

Although increased salivation may have the collateral advantage of promoting teething, it has the downside that the baby may have to change several times a day what with its clothes getting soaked, in case it should catch a cold. The regular use of high-absorbency cloths is particularly recommended during this period to wipe the baby’s face dry. Many a baby is rather peeved by changing. Saliva may cause the area around the mouth to become red and rash to appear. Dry spots can be treated by applying shea-butter or lanolin cream on the affected area.

Your baby is constantly chewing away on something

If the baby is constantly chewing away on anything he lays hands on you can make sure that he is teething. By chewing constantly, he is trying to put up with the strain and itching of his gums and all things unpleasant associated with teething. Today there is no dearth of teethers on the market designed for this purpose. Varieties include refrigerated teethers of different shapes, with a grainy or smooth surface. The range is wide and makes it worthwhile to experiment and find the one just right for you.

Better-known teethers:

  • Sophie the giraffe is made of natural rubber and handmade since 1950. It originated from France and is still reckoned as a famous development toy and teether.
  • The manufacturer of Curaprox tooth brushes has also developed a product of their own named Cura baby available both in boyish and girlish colours.

If inedible things are not quite to your baby’s liking, you might want to feed them apple or carrot. Many parents give their babies bread crust, bake rolls, ladyfingers, but these are not particularly recommended. In the first year tooth enamel requires calcium and other minerals in order to become reinforced. Foods containing excessive quantities of simple sugars accelerate acidification and directly deteriorate teeth. Food and drink containing large quantities of sugar consumed slowly on a regular basis keep oral sugar levels high, allowing less time for calcium and phosphate to integrate. Refrain, therefore, from giving your children sugared food between meals.

Lack of appetite

With sore gums, it is quite understandable that your baby does not feel like eating. On suction, the discomfort increases. It is important to be patient and not to forget about fluid replacement. Once the pain has abated the appetite will also come back.

Diarrhea, reddened, diaper rash infested baby butts

During teething many parents will experience looser and more frequent stool but by no means wet diarrhea! In such cases consult a doctor at all events. In this period you might want to postpone the introduction of new types of food. With omnivorous babies you might also want cut down on stool loosening foods and fruits such as plums, pears, apples and dairy products. Reddened and irritated baby butts need to be treated with skin-soothing creams.

Mild fever (not high fever)

This is a highly controversial issue among physicians as are teething and diaper rash. Certain views uphold that gingival inflammation may be associated with mild fever and that this promotes tooth eruption, while others argue that the immunity received from the mother decreases from the sixth month and through constant chewing the baby may introduce bacteria and viruses into its body liable to result in change in body temperatures. Whatever the truth be, it is important that such episodes should not exceed 3 days, and that antifebriles should only be applied beyond 38 °C. Below that, cooling baths and a dressing will do. In case of a prolonged febrile or high fever episode consult a doctor by all means.

Cough, sneezing, cold symptoms

Since inflammation associated with teething burdens the immune system the baby may well contract a viral infection but increased salivation may also trigger a cough. As long as no fever and severe symptoms present themselves there is no reason to worry.


Ear pulling and face rubbing

This is characteristic to rear teeth. If there is no other evidence of teething we must make sure there is nothing severe going on in the background such as the onset of a middle ear inflammation.

Sleep disorders, peevishness

If we have a tooth ache we are not able sleep well either. Imagine that our baby struggles with a toothache for months on end! Let’s try and be patient, and love, cuddle and soothe our baby. A short stroll in the fresh air can often work wonders.

It was not the lower incisor that came through first. Need I worry?

Definitely not. Some do not teethe in the “regular order”. As pointed out earlier on, there is no rule. No generally applicable process can be observed in this instance either. Exceptions always exist.

Although my baby has got no teeth yet, can he eat lumpy food?

Yes. Our baby’s gums are very strong and they can chew with them. If our baby is already comfortable eating pulpy food, but has no teeth yet, it is time you set about introducing lumpy food. Exceptions include beef and pork, which should only be given once our baby has teeth.

Important notice

Once the first teeth appear their daily cleaning must also be ensured. This can either be done with a gauze pad or a soft textile diaper wrapped around our finger and thoroughly wiping the teeth, which will more than do in the initial days, but make sure this occurs on a daily basis.