How to Help Babies Through Teething
The very word can strike fear into the heart of even the most confident parent.
When parents hear the word “teething,” they immediately picture a fussy, clingy baby who can’t be comforted.
Teething can be an exciting time because the development of teeth marks a new phase of discovery for your child. They can try new foods and flash an even more beautiful smile than before. And, it’s a sign that they’re continuing to grow into a little person with a unique and special identity all their own.
It’s true that baby teething can lead to some tears and discomfort for your little one — and a few sleepless nights too — but if you understand the process of teething and how to help your child through it, then teething doesn’t have to provide unnecessary stress for you or your little one.
How the Process of Teething Works
If you’re a first-time parent — or it’s been a while since you’ve done the teething thing — you’re likely wondering, “When do babies start teething?”
On average, most children begin teething around six months of age. However, each child is different. Some children have been known to start cutting teeth as early as four or five months. Others don’t get their first tooth until much later. While there’s no foolproof way to predict when your baby will cut their first tooth, many children tend to follow the patterns of their parents. If you aren’t sure when you or your spouse cut your first tooth, this might be a good time to take a trip down memory lane and ask the grandparents to fill you in.
Typically, the first tooth to appear will be one of the bottom incisors, otherwise known as the front teeth. Then, their top counterparts appear. Some children will receive their teeth in rapid succession. Others will experience a few days of excruciating pain over each one.
While the appearance of teeth is exciting, it’s important to remember that their molars — which are important for chewing — are the last to appear. Babies’ molars usually won’t appear until sometime between their first and third birthday. So hold off on those big pieces of steak for a while longer!
While most children do begin teething around six months, this is just an average number. Truthfully, there’s no “normal” age for cutting teeth, and pediatricians and dentists often aren’t concerned about a lack of teeth until your baby reaches 18 months. If you’re worried about it, you can check with your baby’s pediatrician for reassurance, but remember that each child is different. And those teeth will make an appearance eventually!
Signs and Symptoms of Teething
A lot of people believe that their child is teething as soon as they start chewing on things — typically between two and three months. But this isn’t actually a sign of teething. Babies explore the world by chewing and putting things into their mouths, so this is more likely to be a sign that they’re becoming more alert.
Before we get into what teething looks like, let’s address a few common myths about the signs and symptoms of teething. First of all, teething does not cause your child to run a fever. If your child’s temperature registers over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they are fighting a virus or infection. Next, although they may seem to appear at the same time, teething does not cause congestion or diarrhea.
Why do many parents think they’re related?
Most children begin teething around six months, which is also when the immunity they received during their time in their mother’s womb begins to wear off. They’re more susceptible to viruses, and this simply coincides with the age when they’re teething too.
So how will you know when your child is teething?
1. Swollen Gums
Some children will have some redness or slight swelling around the area of their gums where the tooth is beginning to push its way through. You may even be able to feel a small lump under the gum’s surface.
Another sign that a new tooth is on its way can be drooling. Most babies begin to drool more around the same time they begin to chew and put stuff into their mouths, but teething also stimulates saliva production, so you’ll see lots of drool when a new tooth is on its way. There’s nothing you can do to prevent this, so make sure to stock up on bibs to protect your baby’s clothes and minimize the number of outfit changes they need each day.
Another sign that your child is about to cut a new tooth is a marked change in temperament. Teething pain will make them grumpier than usual, and your little one is going to let you know it. Why does teething hurt so much? Think about what a tooth feels like and then imagine how that would feel against tender gums. It’s not going to be pleasant. And, to make matters worse, a baby can’t verbally express their pain. All they can do is fuss.
4. Lack of Interest in Food
If you’ve already started some foods with your baby, then you may notice that their appetite decreases in the days leading up to the appearance of a new tooth. This is normal and nothing to worry about. As long as they’re still drinking plenty of breastmilk or formula, they’ll get their appetite back once that tooth makes an appearance.
5. Lack of Sleep
The link between teething and lack of sleep is well-known, and many a parent has experienced sleepless nights because of it. When a baby is teething, the discomfort they feel in their gums may disrupt their sleep habits. A baby who has been sleeping through the night may start to wake up several times. A baby who still wakes up to eat may wake up more than usual.
How to Soothe a Teething Baby
When their baby starts teething, many parents ask, “How can I ease the pain of teething?” No parent wants to see their child in pain, and, of course, you want to help keep them comfortable. So what can you do to minimize teething pain? What are the best baby teething remedies out there?
1. Teething Rings
This tried-and-true standard is still around for a reason — it works! Teething rings made of rubber or silicone give a baby a safe and fun way to chew. When they bite down on the teething ring, it can temporarily relieve some of the pressure and pain they’re experiencing. Throw a couple in the fridge before use — the cold will make them even more soothing for sore gums!
2. Teething Toys
Similar to teething rings, teething toys are designed to give a baby a safe toy to chew on when they need it. There are plenty of options on the market today, but remember that toys designed for teething need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly. If they aren’t cleaned, moisture from your child’s mouth or dirt from the floor can build up in the toys. Choose toys that are easy to wash and keep several on hand so your baby doesn’t have to go without one while you’re washing the other.
3. Cold Washcloths
Moisten a clean washcloth then place it in the fridge until it gets nice and cold. Your baby will love gnawing on the cold fabric, and there’s nothing they can accidentally chew off or get in their mouth. It’s also super easy to clean!
4. Over-the-Counter Medication
Sometimes a teething ring or toy just isn’t going to cut it, especially at nighttime. When that happens, ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide comfort and relief to your baby, helping them get the rest they need. Check with your pediatrician if you haven’t used these medicines before so you know what the proper dosage is for your baby. And, be careful. While these medicines are perfectly safe to administer occasionally, they shouldn’t be used around the clock for days on end. Consider them an occasional nighttime remedy and opt for non-medicinal options during the day when possible.
5. Rub Their Gums
If your baby is miserable, then wash your hands and settle in for a relaxing mini-massage. Using one finger, gently rub your baby’s gums on and near the inflamed area. Applying gentle pressure to the painful area can ease their pain and help them to relax. Plus, when they’re unhappy, spending time close to Mom or Dad provides a great deal of comfort to your unhappy child.
6. Solid Foods
If you’ve started experimenting with solid foods, consider giving your baby a chilled piece of carrot or cucumber to chew on. To avoid the risk of your baby choking on small food particles, you can place the food into a fresh food feeder, a teething toy designed to contain small amounts of food. Your baby can chew on the food and even get small tastes of it without the risk of big particles breaking off and potentially getting stuck in their throat.
What to Avoid When Baby Is Teething
There are many ways you can help make your child more comfortable when they’re teething, especially if they experience severe teething pain, but there are also some things you’ll want to avoid.
1. Teething Jewelry
Teething jewelry, especially anklets and necklaces made from amber beads have become popular methods of soothing sore gums in recent years, but they’re just not a good option for keeping your baby happy. Why? Teething jewelry puts your child at higher risk for choking on the beads if they break off of the necklace or being strangled by the necklace if it becomes caught on something. Plus, there’s been no scientific evidence that amber jewelry provides the pain relief that its manufacturers claim it does.
2. Teething Gels That Contain Benzocaine
In the recent past, many parents turned to Orajel or other similar topical gels that contain the pain reliever benzocaine to provide relief for teething babies. But these gels can pose a huge risk to babies. Health Canada has issued a warning about the use of products that contain benzocaine, including a warning to refrain from using them in children under the age of 2 without consulting their physician because of the increased risk that babies and young children could develop a condition in which their blood oxygen levels drop significantly.
3. Homeopathic Remedies
Homeopathic teething tablets have also been a popular solution for parents who want to ease their child’s discomfort without turning to over-the-counter medicines, however, these tablets just aren’t a good idea. Although some people have found relief using them, they are a homeopathic treatment and not medicinal. Besides not being regulated by Canada Health, these tablets have been found to contain ingredients that are dangerous for babies and young children and were found to cause seizures in some of the children who took them.
Importance of Early Dental Care
It may seem strange to think about taking a child to the dentist when they are just cutting their first tooth, but that’s the best time to think about it! The Canadian Dental Association recommends a child have their first dental visit once their first tooth arrives or around their first birthday — whichever comes first.
Why is it important to begin baby dental care so early?
1. Establish Healthy Habits
When you incorporate regular dental checkups and good dental hygiene into your child’s routine from an early age, it becomes second nature to them. It shows them that the dentist is a regular part of their life, just like visits to their pediatrician.
Besides beginning routine dental visits, it’s never too early to start teaching your child about good oral hygiene habits. Before your child’s teeth come in, you can gently wash their gums with a washcloth twice a day. Once their first tooth appears, you can begin a brushing routine using an age-appropriate toothpaste and toothbrush.
Many parents struggle with getting young children to brush their teeth, but it’s easier if you make it fun. Sing a song or recite a silly rhyme. Watch a short video or simply enjoy a few minutes of cuddle time while your little one sits in your lap and brushes.
2. Prevent Problems
By establishing a good oral health routine that includes regular dental checkups, you can prevent serious problems from marring that beautiful smile or your child’s confidence as they grow. A dentist can help reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene, as well as to detect minor problems before they snowball into serious — and potentially painful — issues later on.
Infant and Toddler Dental Care
Teething can be a difficult and emotional experience for parents and infants alike. It’s no fun watching your baby struggling with teething. Your job during this time is to provide ways to ease their pain and give them all the love and comfort you can. This too shall pass. By the time your child is 2 or so, they will likely have a full set of beautiful teeth and the days of teething rings and Baby Advil will be a distant memory.
But once your child’s teeth arrive, the real work begins. As a parent, you play a key role in helping your child develop and maintain good oral hygiene habits that will serve them for the rest of their life. By establishing a routine of brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups, you can show your child how to keep their smile looking beautiful as they grow.
At Alpen Dental, we love working with children and parents to protect healthy teeth and develop healthy habits. If you are looking for a new dental home for your family, we invite you to call us or go online to make an appointment at our Blackfalds or Rimbey locations.