Teething can be a rather stressful time for both parents and babies. Being at such a young and vulnerable age, teething can be the most stressful time in a child’s first year. However, understanding teething and what you can do to make both you and your child’s life easier plays a big role in overcoming this delicate stage. Wahiawā Health highly recommends new moms to take the time to understand exactly what happens when teething starts, and how you can help soothe your baby.
Every child is different. In some cases, teething can start as early as 3 months old; however, teething typically starts around the 4th – 7th month. The two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to appear, followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors). The Mayo Clinic describes how certain factors can help determine whether your child has started or is about to begin the process. While you may not see a tooth present, teething can cause pain and discomfort for the child before the teeth actually come out.
Here are a few signs to look for if your child begins to teethe:
- Chewing on solid objects
- Irritability or crankiness
- Sore or tender gums
No parent enjoys seeing their child in pain and discomfort, especially when it’s at an age that communication is challenging. Your child will start to feel constant pain. Because of this, your child may be restless and moody during naps, their normal sleeping pattern is disrupted, and play time becomes stressful rather than playful. While many parents turn to numbing medications to help soothe their infant’s gums, medical research has described how certain treatments could potentially be more dangerous than one would think.
According to the FDA, products with benzocaine should not be used on children that are younger than 2 years old, except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional. Benzocaine—which, like viscous lidocaine, is a local anesthetic and can be found in over-the-counter products such as Anbesol, Hurricane, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase. These products have become popular when it comes to numbing gums; however, the use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain can lead to a rare, serious, and a potentially fatal condition called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the bloodstream is greatly reduced. Studies have shown that children under 2 years old appear to be at particular risk.
So what other ways can help soothe your infant during the teething period? Kids Health recommends a selection of tips that don’t require medical assistance or products, yet will still provide the comfort your child is looking for.
- Wipe your baby’s face often with a cloth to remove the drool and prevent rashes from developing.
- Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger.
- Give your baby something to chew on. Make sure it’s big enough that it can’t be swallowed or choked on and that it can’t break into small pieces. A wet washcloth placed in the freezer for 30 minutes makes a handy teething aid. Be sure to take it out of the freezer before it becomes rock hard — you don’t want to bruise those already swollen gums — and be sure to wash it after each use.
- Rubber teething rings are also good, but avoid ones with liquid inside because they may break or leak. If you use a teething ring, chill it in the refrigerator, but NOT the freezer. Also, never boil to sterilize it — extreme changes in temperature could cause the plastic to get damaged and leak chemicals.
- If your baby seems irritable, ask your doctor if it is OK to give a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for babies older than 6 months) to ease discomfort. Never place an aspirin against the tooth, and don’t rub alcohol on your baby’s gums.
- Teething biscuits and frozen or cold food are only OK for kids who are already eating solid foods. Don’t use them if your child has not yet started solids. And make sure to watch your baby to make sure that no pieces break off or pose a choking hazard.
If you’re worried your child seems exceptionally discomforted or in pain, seeking medical advice is always the best solution. Your local pediatrician may be able to prescribe a safe medication that will soothe your infant’s gums and ease the pain. We highly recommend you get the opinion of a professional who you can discuss your worries and concerns with before buying products over the counter.
Wahiawā Health has trained and expert pediatricians on staff Monday-Saturday. For more information or to set up an appointment with one of our staff, call 808-622-1618. No insurance? No problem. Staff will be able to assist.
For more information on teething, see: