Some babies seem to cut their teeth without any trouble at all, while for others it can be a long and distressing process. The normal symptoms of teething are dribbling and wanting to gnaw or chew on something, often accompanied by grizzling and fretfulness and sometimes by red cheeks. But although teething can make your baby uncomfortable, it won't make them ill. If your baby is off their food, is vomiting or has a temperature, the cause is something else and you should see your doctor.
The age at which babies acquire their first teeth varies enormously. A few babies can be born with teeth, while others may not have any teeth until they are over 12 month's old - but all babies' teeth come through in the same order:
• First: the lower two front teeth;
• Second: the upper two front teeth;
• Third, the upper side teeth;
• Fourth, the lower side teeth;
• And after that all the others!
If teething is uncomfortable for your baby, try these suggestions:
• Rub their gums gently with your (clean) finger.
• Give them something hard to chew on, such as a raw carrot, a hard rusk or a teething ring - making sure you keep an eye on them, in case they choke.
• Apply a painkilling gel to the gums. These are available from your pharmacist.
• Talk to your pharmacist about giving painkillers appropriate to the baby's age if the pain is keeping them awake, but try not to give them too frequently.
• Don't take your baby out in cold weather. If you must, wrap them in a hat and a warm scarf around their cheeks.
• Give them lots of cuddles and accept help from relatives who offer it. If your baby is upset by teething it can be a very fraught time.
Use a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste and rub it gently round your baby's mouth with a little finger, especially if they've just been given sticky, sweet medicine. Later on, try cleaning your baby's teeth gently with a soft-bristled brush, while they lie with their head on your lap holding a mirror, so they can see what's going on. Let them play with a toothbrush and imitate you when you clean your teeth.
Take your baby to the dentist with you whenever you go for a check-up, to get them used to the idea before they ever need the dentist's help. And if you encourage your child to think 'water' when they want a drink, they hopefully won't get into the habit of sweetened drinks. These are as bad for the teeth as eating sweets.