Teething can be a difficult time for the whole family. While some babies sail through the process with a minimum of fuss, others seem to suffer for days (and nights) on end. What can a parent do to help?


A baby’s first tooth usually appears between the ages of 5 and 7 months. Some babies produce their first tooth a little earlier and others a little later. Often the two middle bottom teeth come through the gums first, followed by the middle four upper teeth. The teething process continues until the baby has its complete set of 20 deciduous teeth at about 30 – 36 months.

What Causes Teething Discomfort?

The discomfort associated with teething is largely due to the pressure exerted by the crown of the tooth as it breaks through the sensitive gum tissue or periodontal membrane, a process known as erupting. Before the teeth begin to show, there are very important changes that take place in the face and base of the skull. These changes prepare the way for the teeth, with the lower half of the face lengthening and the base of the skull changing its angle. This often begins around 12 weeks and so teething discomfort can begin at this time, if the bones and cartilaginous tissues gets stuck and is unable to expand and move properly.

An Osteopathic Perspective

The osteopathic approach to health care recognises that any one area of the body is linked directly or indirectly to all other areas. The oral cavity provides access to the posterior nasal cavity (openings at the back of the nasal cavity leading to the pharynx), pharynx (back of the throat), oesophagus and lower respiratory tract (trachea, bronchi and lungs). Osteopathic assessment and diagnosis followed by gentle osteopathic treatment offers a holistic, natural and medical approach all in one.

Cranial osteopaths understand the complex relationships between the bones of the face and jaw, head and neck and can help in reducing congestion in muscle tissue around the jaw, which in turn relieves pressure and pain. They will also ensure that the bony and myofascial structures of the head and neck are in the optimal position, as problems with teething, overcrowding of teeth and poor facial development are invariably associated with stresses and compressions in this area, especially if there is a history of traumatic or assisted birth. Babies are well adapted to withstanding the rigours of the birth process, but powerful forces are involved and retained compressions and distortions do sometimes cause problems.

In terms of health benefits gained, the cranial osteopath’s most useful work is with the newborn. Problems can be corrected much more easily and completely when the work is done in the first few months, but it is never to late!