Essential Teething Questions Answered


In honour of beautiful teeth this National Oral Month, we got in touch with Dr Candice Schwartz, to give us the lowdown on teething.
Dr Candice is the owner and founder of the Big Red Tooth Medical and Dental Practice in Fourways, Johannesburg. Dr Candice and her team of pediatric dentists use their secret fairy powers that keep children captivated and enthralled during their dental visits. With an invisible wand, they calm and pacify toddlers whilst attending to tiny teeth. This leaves children smiling and eager to return. Dr Candice qualified with a Bachelor of Dental Science from Wits Medical School in 2006 and has ever since, been practicing in the private dental sector. She embraces holistic health alternatives and biological dentistry and combines this with each individual’s specific treatment needs. She eats, breathes and sleeps holistic and integrative health and is at the forefront of alternative treatment approaches and functional medicine practices.


Question 1: What is teething?

It depends who you talk to. In my personal opinion, teething has received a large volume of negative media coverage and has become somewhat an old wives tale. Yes, children have some degree of discomfort and uneasiness when the teeth erupt into the mouth. But this is a natural process which should not be associated with pain. Having said that, each and every human is different and we all experience our bodies in different ways – so some children do drool excessively and may develop erratic sleeping patterns while the teeth erupt. But it is a time to support and soothe your child, not panic, and certainly not medicate.


Question 2: In adult terms, what could you compare the pain and feeling to?

This is a difficult question to answer. Some children will have all their teeth erupt without any sign or symptom that indicates they are in pain or discomfort. Versus, some mothers will report months of crying, unhappiness and drooling. This is a very subjective experience. The most case scenario: I would imagine you could compare it to a deep bruised sensation in the jaw.


Question 3: What are the symptoms of teething?

Teething should not have any symptoms outside of excess drooling. When a child has a runny tummy, fever or any other unusual symptoms, this is not related to the teething process. Mothers should not resign all symptoms to being teething, if a child is sick, there is usually another underlying cause for this.


Question 4: Is there a specific order in which the teeth appear/erupt?

Usually, the lower anterior incisor (bottom front teeth) appear first. However, as with everything in the human body, there are anomalies to this rule. Some children will get their upper central incisors first. Some children grow the pointy canine teeth first. Either way, it does not matter, all the teeth will erupt in good time.

Question 5: How many teeth are there?

There are 20 teeth in the primary dentition.


Question 6: When do these baby teeth start coming in and by when should it be finished?

The ‘normal’ average is 6 months. However, there can be up to 6-8 months variation in tooth eruption times. The majority of children get their first teeth at 6 months of age and they have all 20 teeth by the age of 2 years old. However, some children only get there last few teeth growing through by 3 years of age. If your child is 3 years old and still does not have all 20 teeth then you should certainly visit your dentist. I do recommend children see the dentist from the age of 2, so we usually pick up on any problems at this stage anyway.


Questions 7: When do children lose milk teeth?

The first milk teeth are lost between the age of 5 and 7 years old. We are seeing a greater variation in eruption and exfoliation patterns in the last 5 years. Therefore there is no NORMAL. As long as the teeth are lost by the age of 8, we are happy. Again, any problems will be picked up at routine dental visits. Interestingly, boys are usually much later in their eruption pattern as compared to girls. Boys can sometimes lose their teeth up to 2 years later than their female counterparts. Losing the first tooth is a sign of emotional maturity. I usually say that when they lose their first tooth they are ready for Grade 1.


Question 8: What can one use to try to lessen the pain?

Cold hard vegetables – like cold cucumber or cold carrots are good teething toys.


Question 9: Should you brush your baby’s teeth as they start to arrive and how should you do it?

You should be cleaning your babies mouth from the age of 3 months with a small gauze, finger brush and xylitol based toothpaste. This is continued when the first teeth erupt. A soft rubber finger brush is good for the first 12 months. But move onto a normal soft toothbrush after the age of 1. The sooner you can get your child into the habit of accepting you cleaning and brushing the inside of their mouth, the better.


Question 10: Do you have any old wives tales that are totally not true?

Whiskey on the gums: I think this probably did numb the child and the gums, and knock it (the baby) out – probably best to avoid this.


Question 11: What age should you take your baby/child to the dentist?

2 years of age.