Teething can be an uncomfortable time for babies.

There is irritability, an inability to sleep and an unwillingness to eat food because of the pain. Once teeth appear, there is a desire to bite down on everything – including mum and dad’s fingers!

Each baby tooth erupts at a different time and pain associated with it lasts for different periods. There is no manual you can consult to make everything run smoothly, however most babies develop their first teeth between the ages of four and seven months until they reach the age of three. The bottom middle teeth usually appear first, followed by the upper middle teeth, then the teeth along the sides of the mouth and the back.

Parents can do 2 things:

1. You need to be able to comfort your child and find ways to relieve the discomfort when it is at its worst.

2. You need to ensure that your child is getting into good oral hygiene habits early in life.

So let’s begin with the first stage: comforting your child and relieving the discomfort. Some babies find it helps to have something to chew on and there are lots of teething toys available that are safe. Cooling foodstuffs, like yoghurt can sometimes help too.

If the discomfort for your child is severe, your doctor may recommend using a pain relief gel such as Bonjela . This should only be used in very small quantities. Some children, however, respond to having their gums rubbed and massaged even without the pain relief gel.

Once the teeth have arrived, you need to look after them.

Besides teaching your child how to brush their teeth, you should also ensure that you are taking care of their diet to encourage good oral health. As much as possible, you should avoid giving them too many sugary foods or drinks, as these can rot the teeth. You should also ensure that your baby does not take a bottle of milk to bed. Milk contains sugars – so drinking milk right before sleeping means that these sugars have all night to attack the newly emerged teeth.

Teething has been known to cause a diverse range of symptoms such as rashes and fevers, which can of course be symptoms of other sorts of infections. So if you are unsure whether your baby is showing symptoms of teething or not, you should consult your doctor for peace of mind.