Your baby is suddenly more cranky than usual, their cheeks are flushed, and they want to chew on everything in sight. That’s right; it’s teething time! But, of course, not every baby reacts the same way to teething. For some lucky babies, those pearly whites may just pop through without any issue, but for many others, teething can be uncomfortable or painful, leading to some very grizzly little ones. So today, let’s look at some ideas to help you and your baby.
Teething typically starts around six months of age, though they can emerge earlier or later (sometimes as early as 3-4 months). Baby teeth tend to break through (referred to as ‘erupting’) in roughly the same order – generally speaking, the first teeth with be the bottom central incisors, with the top central incisors soon after. Lateral incisors come next, followed by the first molars, canines, and second molars1. You can check out the figure below for an overview of which tooth is which and roughly when you can expect them to arrive.
As with most things baby-related, there can be some variation in this order – it’s by no means set in stone. So don’t worry if your child’s teeth come through in a different order, or at a different time to others – as with every other aspect of a baby’s growth, they develop in their own time, in their own way! However, if you have any concerns about your child's dental development, check with your healthcare professional.
It is sometimes possible to see which tooth is likely to erupt next just by looking – the gums in the area where the tooth is coming through may appear red and swollen, or tight and shiny2. Also, any cheek flushing your child may have could be more prominent on the side the tooth is coming through on3 – of course, if a tooth is coming through on each side, both cheeks may be affected.
What can we do to help our little ones if they are feeling pain or discomfort because of teething? There's a range of options, most of which revolve around finding ways to relieve the discomfort they’re feeling. One of the most effective ways for a baby to get this relief is through pressure on their gums, which is why so many start to chew on whatever they can find, including their own fingers. While teething gels are commonly used, these can often be washed away by the excess dribbling associated with teething time. Another helpful thing to try is a clean, moistened flannel that has been in the freezer for a few hours – the cold, combined with the pressure of chewing on the material, can be very soothing.
Flannels, however, can be a little challenging to sterilise, which can be a concern for parents (especially if you have an early teether). Teething rings, also known simply as teethers, are an ideal alternative – they’re small, easy to sterilise, can be put in the fridge to cool, and have been specifically designed to be safe and easy for a baby to chew on. Happily, Haakaa has a range of teethers to choose from. Each one is made from 100% food-grade silicone, meaning they are soft yet sturdy, providing a safe, firm surface to chew. Every Haakaa teether is textured and shaped to not only soothe aching gums, but also to encourage sensory development and motor skills. If you don’t have one yet, a quick browse through our teether range could be just the thing you need. In the meantime, here are a couple of our favourites!
The Silicone Rabbit Ear Teether is an adorable little teether suitable for three months and up. It’s made of soft, non-toxic silicone, and features raised ridges and bristles on the rabbit’s ears to gently massage your baby’s teeth and gums, allowing them to soothe teething pain as and when they need to! The ring shape makes it easy for little fingers to grip, meaning the teether not only helps their discomfort, but also helps to develop your child’s fine motor skills.
In contrast, the Silicone Crown Teether is suitable for older babies six months and over. This one is slightly larger in size, but is still made of the same soft 100% food-grade silicone. Like the Rabbit Teether, the Crown Teether has a variety of ridges and bumps to assist with easing the pressure of erupting teeth while also providing a wealth of textures to encourage sensory development and motor skills!
There are, of course, more than just those two options. Included in the collection are the Silicone Teething Ball, Silicone Teething Ring (designed to look a little like a keyring), Palm Teether, Dinky Digits Teether and more! Check out the full range to see what else is available – it's always handy to have a range of teethers to hand, especially if they are likely to get dropped while you're out and about.
The Fresh Food Feeder and Pineapple Nibble Tray might not immediately come to mind when your little one is teething – they do seem, on the surface, to be designed more with feeding in mind. But in combination, they are perfect for teething babies. The Pineapple Nibble Tray can be used to freeze small quantities of purées or breastmilk, and the compartments are just the right size to have each portion fit perfectly inside the Fresh Food Feeder. This gives your baby something cold to chew on, soothing their gums while having a tasty, nutritious snack at the same time.
Just because they’re little doesn’t mean those new teeth don’t need brushing. In fact, it’s important to get babies used to the sensation of having their teeth brushed as early as possible so they have a better chance of getting into those good, lifelong habits – starting before their teeth emerge can be enormously beneficial4. Haakaa has an excellent option to not only introduce oral care to your child, but to grow with them until they are old enough to brush their teeth by themselves. The Kids Oral Care Set contains three different brushes in one convenient kit – though, of course, all three can be bought separately as well. Stage one is the Silicone Finger Brush. It slips over your finger, allowing your child to get used to the feeling of brushing their teeth and gums, while you get to control the positioning and pressure with precision – much easier than trying to use a standard toothbrush!
Stage two is the Contoured Silicone Toothbrush. Its curved head is filled with soft silicone bristles, making it easy to get those brand-new teeth cleaned from all angles. Particularly comforting for teething children, this brush gets babies looking forward to toothbrushing time!
This set’s third and final brush is the stage three 360° Silicone Toothbrush. This toothbrush has soft bristles right around the head, so little hands learning to brush their own teeth can reach them for an effective clean no matter how they hold it. It also features a suction base on the bottom, allowing for easy, hygienic storage without tipping over!
While there is a basic roadmap for the teething journey, there is no one path that all babies take. What’s important is to see how your baby’s dental development is going and then work according to what is happening. And finally, if you have a little one struggling with the discomfort of teething and you have concerns, don’t hesitate to speak to your nurse, GP, or dentist – they will be more than happy to check on your baby and deal with any worries you may have.
1Common issues in paediatric oral health. (2010). BPAC. https://bpac.org.nz/BPJ/2010/April/docs/bpj_27_oral_pages_30-41.pdf
2Health Navigator. (n.d.). Teething. https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/healthy-living/t/teething/#Overview
3Tinslley, E. (2019). At a glance: Teething. Journal of Health Visiting, 7(3), 116-118. https://doi.org/10.12968/johv.2019.7.3.116
4Plunket. (n.d.). Teeth: Newborn to three months. https://www.plunket.org.nz/child-development/teeth/teeth-newborn-3-months/