Children’s teeth begin developing in the womb. The primary teeth are begin emerging in the jaw at about 5 weeks of gestation. At birth, a full set of primary teeth are formed and hidden within the gums. It’s only when these teeth begin to ‘erupt’ from the gums that babies first begin the teething process.
This emergence of primary teeth from the gums is officially referred to as teething and happens at different times with different children. Some babies begin teething after just a few months while others don’t begin until they are a year or more. Of course, teeth begin erupting at different stages. The two front teeth in the upper and lower jaw are usually the first to erupt, followed by the incisors, molars, and canines until a full set of primary teeth has emerged by the age of 2-3.
The teething process typically lasts about 8 days and will likely cause some irritation or soreness in your child’s gums. Managing the teething process comes down to managing the transition to teeth and helping your child cope with the tender gums as primary teeth emerge. Here are tips to help relieve sore gums.
- Gently massage gums. This can help relieve some pain. Gently massage your child’s gums with your finger or using a soft, wet cloth. If you use your hands, make sure they are clean.
- Teething rings. These objects should be chilled, but not frozen. Applying pressure from a cold object can reduce inflammation and lessen some of the discomfort from teething. Understand the product specifications before using teething rings, and don’t sterilize rings in the dishwasher or in boiling water unless it is specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pain relievers. You can give your child pain relieving medication but consult with your pediatrician for information on what type and how much. Ibuprofen can cause adverse reactions in children, so consult your physician.
Taking Care of Primary Teeth
It is important to take care of your child’s primary teeth once they emerge even though they will eventually fall out. Primary teeth are important in your child’s oral development by reserving space in the gums for future permanent teeth, in addition to helping your child chew and speak properly. Baby teeth that prematurely fall out or become dislodged can create spacing problems for adult teeth, so be sure to take precautions to protect your child’s teeth and always remember to carefully and thoroughly brush the child’s teeth twice a day to prevent problems related to neglect.
Keeping your child’s teeth healthy during infancy and encouraging healthy dental care as they get older will help prevent dental problems and set the stage for positive oral health for life–especially as primary teeth transition into permanent adult teeth.