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Teething is no Fun

Here are some tips to help get through a tough time.

All seemed to be going so well for four or five months and then it happened. Teething!

Teething can be tortuous for some babies while some hardly even whimper. Each child reacts differently both physically and mentally.

Teething usually begins between the ages of six and eight months old but can begin as early as four months old. Months before the first tooth appears, most babies start to drool more than usual and become irritable.

Teeth usually arrive in pairs. The two bottom middle teeth are the first to appear, then the top middle ones, then the ones along the sides and the back. By age three, a child should have 20 teeth.

Some of the signs of teething are obvious and some are not. You might notice:

  • Bulging gums
  • Drooling
  • Crankiness
  • Waking up at night
  • Biting on everything!
  • Refusing to eat

Many parents insist whenever their baby is teething he or she will have loose stools, runny noses or a fever. I have one friend who swore every time her children cut a tooth they ran a low grade fever and had diarrhea. Many of the experts and doctors will say that is just a coincidence and that teething does not cause a fever.

Dr. William Sears of AskDrSears.com believes it may not be a coincidence.

Sears says the diarrhea can be caused by excessive saliva which in turn loosens the stools. Sears also says inflammation in the gums may cause a low grade fever. Other experts disagree and feel the stress associated with teething can lower the body’s immunity and make the child open to other infections.

The one thing they all agree upon is that you should call your doctor if the fever is over 101 or the symptoms worry you.

What can be done to comfort your child?

Simply rubbing the baby's gums with your clean finger will give some relief.

Cold things also help with the pain. There are a variety of items both food and non-food that can be used to help baby feel better. Frozen teething rings, frozen wash cloths, popsicles, frozen bagels or bananas will all help. Rubbing ice on the gums can help too. Because babies will want to chew and bite whatever they can get their hands on be sure there are no choking hazards. Try to avoid giving baby carrots or other small food items that could end up getting too small and become a danger.

Because your baby will drool a lot, a rash can result on the face. Try to dry your baby’s face often with a soft cotton cloth. Chapped skin can also occur as a result from so much moisture on the face. Unscented moisturizing cream can give some relief.

What about medications?

Sears recommends acetaminophen or ibuprofen which is safe for babies and will give them some pain relief, especially at night. Be sure to check proper dosing. Teething gels numb the gums and gives some temporary pain relief but should be used as a last resort. Be sure to give small amounts because the baby will swallow it and this can cause the tongue, lips and throat to become numb. From what I remember, the gel isn't very tasty either.

What about once the teeth are in?

Once the teeth emerge, massage the baby’s gums with a clean, damp washcloth every day. This will help keep the gums healthy and get rid of food particles. Once all 20 teeth are in, a small soft-bristled toothbrush can be used at age 12 to 18 months old. You will need to do the brushing, however, as children are not able to brush their own teeth until about three years old.

Avoid using fluoride toothpaste until your child is at least three years old. Swallowing toothpaste can stain the teeth. Fluoride is an important compound that strengthens tooth enamel and prevents tooth decay and most cities and towns add fluoride to their water systems. If your water does not contain fluoride, check with your pediatrician.  

There is a difference in opinions about when a child should first visit a dentist. You are the only one who can say if your child is ready. When in doubt, contact your pediatrician for advice.

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