You’ve survived sleep deprivation and the “new parent jitters,” and finally your baby is sleeping through the night, sort of. Now, a new issue has reared its ugly head: teething.
When Baby’s first teeth begin to “come in,” most feel a certain amount of discomfort as the teeth push their way through the gums.
What started as intermittent crankiness has now ballooned into fits of sobbing and a watershed of tears. As you try to soothe your baby, you think to yourself, “I wonder if this hurts me as much as it hurts him?” And because he can’t tell you how he feels, you do what you can to ease his pain and swollen gums.
What is Teething Pain?
When Baby’s first teeth begin to “come in,” most feel a certain amount of discomfort as the teeth push their way through the gums. The swelling of the gum is a result of the pressure the tooth uses to break through the gum-line tissue. The stretching and puncturing of the gums are what cause the actual pain.
As with any significant change of the body or medical condition, there are signs and symptoms to indicate the presence of teething. They are usually easy to recognize:
- Increased drooling;
- Attempting to chew on hard objects;
- Mild swelling of the small area of the gum;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Crying during feedings;
- Refusing food or feedings;
- Low-grade fever no higher then 99.3 degrees Fahrenheit;
- Mild diarrhea.
The following are not symptoms related to teething:
- Bleeding of the gums;
- Moderate to high fever, above 99.3 degrees Fahrenheit;
- Excessive diarrhea;
- Excessive swelling of the gums or a large area of gum tissue.
“Fortunately, teething doesn’t last forever, although sometimes it seems like it,” says Dr. David Fay, a family physician and expert panelist for iParenting Media. “I once had a mother call me to ask if we could pull all her child’s baby teeth before they came out so she could avoid teething pain. We said no.”
With oral surgery out of the question, what can parents do to ease teething pain?
“Unfortunately, treatment of teething pain is an inexact science,” says Dr. Fay. He recommends using local anesthetics to help. Or, he says, allowing the infant to chew on something firm (but not rock-hard), like a teething ring, may offer some relief. Some teething rings have water inside which can be frozen. “One thing that helped our children was a washcloth soaked in water, then frozen,” says Dr. Fay. “They chewed on that and seemed to find some relief.”
“Over-the-counter pain relievers may also help some,” says Dr. Fay. “I do not advise strong pain relievers (such as codeine) or alcohol (rubbing whiskey on the gums), although many ‘home remedies’ recommend this. In any case, trial and error seems to be the way to go here; be inventive, but be safe!”
In the event of the presence of moderate to high fever, bleeding of the gums, excessive diarrhea or excessive swelling of the gums, a medical professional should be contacted immediately as these may indicate an illness not related to teething.
Teething Remedy Road Test – By Belinda Clarke
There are dozens of products on the market (in addition to topical pain relievers) for babies to chew on during the teething process. I was prompted to try several of these in an effort to get my 8-month-old to stop chewing on his crib. Here are some of the products I sampled with some success:
Cool Animal Teether: These cooling teethers are filled with sanitized drinking water and are designed to be frozen to help numb Baby’s gums. The colorful designs on the Cool Animal Teethers (I got a dinosaur) are bonded to the inside of the durable vinyl covering, so it can’t chip or peel off as Baby teethes.
Result: I found that this frozen teether worked well after it was allowed to defrost a little and was more slush than ice. My son definitely liked the feeling of it on his lower gums, but because it was cold, he refused to hold it. So I held it for him. Note: This teether only lasted a few months because at some point while I wasn’t looking, my son bit through it, and the water drained out.
Teething Spoon: This spoon is designed with a fun happy face to help distract your baby if he’s having trouble eating due to teething pain. The rubbery spoon head has sort of a rippled surface to massage Baby’s gums, too.
Result: It’s a good spoon, though I don’t know if it made feeding any easier. I did find that he liked to chew it when he wasn’t eating, probably because of the rubbery, rippled surface.
Massaging Action Teether: This textured, chewable, star-shaped teether produces a safe, soothing vibration whenever your child bites down on it. It’s powered by a small long-life battery that’s sealed inside. A long handle makes it easy to hold.
Result: Apparently this design was created by a Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and the staff of the Child Development Unit at Children’s Hospital in Boston at the request of one of the First Years’ category managers, who found that her own son liked to chew on vibrating toys.
Bottom line: It works. My son will sit for minutes on end (an eternity in baby time) with this vibrating teether in his mouth. He loves it.