By DR. SALLY ROBINSON

Dina DiMaggio, MD and Julie Cernigliaro, DMD, have listed seven facts about baby teeth at www.healthychildren.org. Many things about babies are blamed on teething such as fussiness, drooling, crying during the night and fever. Listed below are some facts about teething:

1. Most babies will develop teeth between 6 and 12 months. There is a wide range of variability of when a first tooth appears. Some even wait until after a year of age. Around three months babies begin exploring the world with their mouths and have increased saliva and put their hands in their mouths. Their first tooth doesn’t come in until about 3 months later at age 6 months. The first teeth are usually the front lower teeth. Usually all 20 teeth have come in by age 3.

2. Fluoride should be added to your child’s diet at 6 months of age. Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay by hardening the enamel of teeth. Fluoride is often added to tap water; not to most bottled water. Ask your health care provider if your tap water has enough or if your child needs fluoride supplements.

3. Massaging sore gums, offering something cold, or acetaminophen, on an occasional rough night can help soothe your baby’s teething pain. Usually, teething doesn’t cause children too much discomfort, however, many parents can tell when their baby is teething. Easing teething pain may happen with massaging the baby’s gums with clean fingers, solid teething rings or a clean, frozen or wet washcloth. A baby’s body temperature may rise slightly, but a true fever (over 100.4 F) is not associated with teething and is a sign of illness. If you feel your child is truly uncomfortable talk to your health care provider about a correct dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

4. Do not use teething tablets, gels with benzocaine, or amber teething necklaces. Some tablets contain substances with potential serious side effects and necklaces have caused strangulation.

5. You should brush your child’s teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice. After the age of 3, the toothpaste can be the size of a pea while teaching them how to spit the excess out. Supervision of the brushing should continue until about 7 to 8 years of age.

6. Ask your pediatrician about your baby’s teeth and fluoride varnish. The earlier your child receives fluoride varnish the better to prevent tooth decay.

7. Make your first dental appointment when the first tooth appears. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that all children see a pediatric dentist and establish a “dental home” by age 1.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.