17th November 2020

The science (ish) around teething

Ever had a wisdom tooth erupt? Well, it really BLOODY hurts, and that’s just one (or two if you’re unlucky) tooth coming in at a time. Imagine how crap it must be for a poor baby who can have several coming all at once.

Teething is a bit of a mystery as there isn’t much evidence or scientific study on the area due to ethics (you can’t test on babies, it’s not cool).  Much of what we know therefore is anecdotal and/or  common sense… Saying that, we did garner the following facts from Mush’s dentist friend Katie Davis from Habox.

Is my baby teething?

Around 6 months you can expect your baby’s first tooth to arrive. Babies usually get their first teeth around 6 months (but it can vary widely, from birth to after 12 months).  It is usually the bottom front ones, and the tell tale signs that one is about to pop into their mouth are:

  • Red flushed cheeks
  • Lots of dribble
  • Loss of appetite 
  • General grumpiness

Clean your hands and have a good feel around the gums, the lower front teeth usually come first and you’ll be able to feel the harder area of the gum, or even see the bulges of the teeth making the gum look translucent in that area. 

What else could it be?

It is widely suggested that  babies can have a high temperature when they are teething. There is no scientific evidence to back this up, so if your baby has a temperature please see the NHS website, or call 111/your GP. 

How long will it last?

It can take up to several months from when a tooth first starts to erupt to it being fully in position. 

There are many ways to minimise teething pain, but each child is different and what works for one child might not for another. But don’t despair, there are lots of techniques you can try.

Try these first;

Keeping your baby’s mouth clean. It will reduce bacteria in the mouth which will help with teething pain.

  • Before the teeth have erupted, use baby dental wipes. They are soothing and can also be stored in the fridge so they have an additional cooling effect on the gums.
  • Once teeth have started to erupt, we advise brushing the gums with a soft toothbrush (we of course think our bamboo toothbrush is the best!) and @brushbabyuk have a baby toothpaste that is applemint flavour with additional chamomile that will also sooth the gums.

Relief of pain

  • Chewing provides a soothing distraction for babies, and this gentle pressure massages the gums which alleviates pain. Most products can be kept in the fridge (NEVER the freezer) to provide additional relief.
  • Cold foods like yoghurt, hummus, watermelon and cucumber batons can be super soothing to inflamed gums. Mushy foods like a mashed banana or avocado – even if your little one has mastered tough textures – can also be a great solution. Just avoid anything with too much acid (tomatoes, citrus fruits) as these can make things worse for sore mouths!
  • Frozen foods are also brilliant for teething babies to gnaw, wait 10 minutes to allow them to thaw first.  Thawed frozen bananas work great, mamamade’s chickpea panisse are great for this, or frozen berries in a teething mesh can also work wonders. 
  • If you’ve been weaning your baby onto solids, the pain and discomfort of teething may put them off their food completely. They may prefer more milk than usual. There’s no need to stress, and avoid forcing them to eat if they’re not in the mood. Mealtime should remain a positive, reassuring experience for them. They’ll come right back to their solids when the pain has subsided!
  • Cuddles & Love 

Other options to consider: 

  1. Painkillers 
    • If your baby is in pain, you may want to give them a sugar-free painkilling medicine. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given to relieve teething symptoms in babies and young children aged 3 months or older. 
    • Children under 16 years old should not have aspirin. 
    • Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine. 
    • If you’re not sure, speak to your GP or pharmacist.
  2. Homeopathic remedies 
    • Despite limited evidence of their efficiency I have met lots of parents, including dental professionals, who swear by homeopathic remedies. I would always recommend trying the above options first, however if you want to try these please see your pharmacist as they can advise ones that are licensed for use in the UK. 
    • The Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has a list of licensed homeopathic gels.
  3. Teething gels 
    • A recent study (1) by the British Society of Dentists found that 9 out 14 teething products licensed for use in the UK contained sugar, alcohol or numbing gel, all of which have potentially harmful side effects for babies. 
    • If you are finding the above options providing limited relief  buy from a pharmacist and never from the internet.

Ultimately, it is a self limiting normal physiological process that will pass (even if it feels like it won’t).  So, do whatever you need to get through it, and as always lean on your dental professionals for advice and help if you need it. 

And remember, once those teeth have appeared, they need to be checked by a dentist.

Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), changes have been made to routine dental treatment. In England, some routine dental treatments like check ups are available again. 

  • If you have a dentist, contact them by phone or email to find out if they are able to book routine appointments. 
  • If you don’t have a dentist, use NHS 111 online
  • If you cannot find an NHS dentist, you can contact NHS England’s Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233, who will be able to help.
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