Crying, irritability and sleepless nights are all common symptoms of teething….and that’s just for the parents!! It can also be quite uncomfortable for the baby. One of our own dental assistants, Suy Anne Toussaint and her 6 month old beautiful baby boy, Greyson, have recently begun to experience the joy of teething together.
Teething is the process by which an infant’s first teeth (the deciduous teeth, often called “baby teeth” or “milk teeth”) sequentially appear by emerging through the gums. Teething may start as early as three months or as late as twelve months. The first teeth typically appear between six and nine months. It can take several years for all 20 teeth to complete eruption; they typically arrive in pairs. Though the process of teething is sometimes referred to as “cutting teeth”, when teeth emerge through the gums they do not cut through the tissue. Instead, special chemicals are released within the body that cause some cells in the gums to die and separate, allowing the teeth to come through.
Typical symptoms of teething include red and swollen gums, drooling, fussiness, loss of appetite, a change in eating habits, difficulty sleeping and low grade fever. Although many parents and dentists will tell you that they have also seen teething associated with more serious symptoms, such as diarrhea, high fever, rashes, vomiting and pain; scientific evidence does not support these symptoms. Therefore, if your infant or young child has these or other medical symptoms, it’s important to not blame it exclusively on teething and have your child evaluated for other conditions such as ear infections or digestive problems.
Remedies for teething pain include giving your child a teething ring (preferably cold) or a pacifier, which also can be filled with water and frozen. Placing a wet washcloth in the freezer for a few minutes and then applying it gently to the gums can be effective, but care must be taken not to expose a baby’s gums to coldness for too long. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as Tylenol or Advil can help but consult with your physician before starting. Try to avoid giving children over-the-counter topical anesthetics that are rubbed onto the gums. The most common active ingredient in topical anesthetics is Benzocaine, which in high doses can be very harmful to children.
Remember, it is important to brush the infants’ teeth as soon as they appear and not advisable to wait for the teething process to be complete. Do not use a fluoride containing toothpaste until the child is old enough to ensure that they can rinse and spit out the excess paste.