Mothers are often at their wits’ end when it comes to baby’s teething. Can you offer some suggestions?

Teething is a perfectly normal process. Fortunately for mum (if she happens to be breastfeeding), baby is born with no teeth, imagine her unhappiness if it were otherwise! However, all kinds of disorders are blamed on the teething process. Like what?

Like fevers, and vomiting and diarrhoea; respiratory disorders, skin rashes, even fits and convulsions. Certainly there often appears to be a relationship, and I believe baby’s resistance is temporarily lowered during this time. For this reason infants seem more than usually vulnerable to illnesses that could occur at any time, but rather than simply blaming the teeth, each symptom must be considered and appropriate therapy given when necessary.

I’ve noticed many older children have unsightly staining on their teeth. Several years ago tetracycline, a popular antibiotic, was often used for children, until it was discovered it caused permanent yellowish colored staining of their secondary teeth. Now doctors do not use this drug for babies or children. Once there, unfortunately, it is there forever. Regrettably, my daughter was seriously ill as a baby, and although this valuable antibiotic probably saved her life, stained teeth bear silent testimony to her past bout of misfortune.

What is your attitude to sweets and children?

Teeth normally have a thin coating of protective material. This may keep the teeth in good order for many years, but it s destroyed by the use of sugar. This promotes tooth decay, called dental caries. Ideally, the less sugar your child uses, the better and longer the teeth will last. A dentist friend’s children have never eaten sweets in their lives. Nor do they use cigar. Now aged in their mid twenties, they haven’t yet had a dental filling!

Have you noticed the way babies dribble when teething?

They certainly do, and they love biting on hard substances, such as hard crusts. This is a natural desire, and helps the process. Personally I dislike teething rings (which invariably attract flies and the risk of gastric infections), but is probably better than a fistful of finish.

What is the order of appearance of the teeth?

To make it easy, I’m setting out a guide here, but this is merely an “average”. Your baby may be quicker, or slower, and the order may not be exactly the same. Don’t worry. The end result is usually the same, a nice set of teeth. The first set (deciduous, or milk teeth) numbers 20 in all, and commences at six months or earlier. The second set or permanent teeth, 32 in all, start arriving at six years.

Teething time can often be a problem time, not only for baby, but for the parents. Indeed. A baby cutting teeth will often become unhappy and irritable. Baby often runs a fever as each new tooth endeavors to cut its way through the gum surface. Sometimes, the top of the pearly white tooth emerges with little sign of anything more happening. At other times, a bluish-black area may occur over the top of the tooth about to erupt. This may be present for some time.

When does teething take place?

Teething usually commences about the age of six months. It then continues at intervals up to the age of two years. There are great variations, and parents frequently become worried that baby is “slow” in teething. There is very little to fear. Invariably they arrive, all intact, and able to do their appointed duty. The central incisors on the lower side usually appear first, between five and eight months. The upper central incisors come next, together with the lower lateral incisors. The second molars at the back appear at twenty to thirty months.

Many illnesses may take place during the teething period. Diarrhea, skin rashes and eruptions, recurring ear infections and respiratory infections are quite common. These should all be treated. It’s wrong to neglect them.