Teething is the process during which an infant’s teeth start to sequentially grow in. Teething can start as early as three months or as late, in some cases, as twelve months. It can take up to several years for all 20 deciduous (more commonly referred to as ‘baby’ or ‘milk’) teeth to emerge. Since the teeth literally cut through or erupt through the soft, fleshy gums of the infant, it’s sometimes referred to as "cutting teeth".
Signs of teething may include irritability, loss of appetite, chewing and gnawing on objects, swollen or bruised gums, excessive salivation, a raised temperature, and sometimes even earaches and diaper rash. Teething symptoms will usually start to rear their ugly head approximately six months into your baby's development.
During this process, you’ll discover your baby loves to chew – on just about anything and everything they can get their little hands on! This can be dangerous if the baby is allowed to chew on objects which are small enough to be swallowed or which could break while being chewed, creating a choking risk. Teething rings and other toys are often designed with textures that massage a baby’s tender gums.
In cases where the infant is in obvious pain, some doctors recommend the use of anti-inflammatory or child-safe pain-relief treatments containing benzocaine, such as Baby Orajel. Some infants gain relief from chewing on cold objects such as a cool washcloth or a specially-designed teething ring that can be frozen. You might also want to massage baby’s gums with a clean finger. Your baby might find it uncomfortable initially, but will probably find it comforting after a few gentle rubs.
Pediatric dentists suggest brushing baby’s teeth as soon as they begin to appear, and not to wait for all teeth to come in before introducing an oral hygiene routine. However, the use of toothpaste during this process is generally discouraged.