Take the bite out of Baby’s Teething

It starts when your baby is approximately six months old, just when you thought she was settling in and becoming “easy.” That’s when the crying, whining, drooling and plain old crankiness begin. But, it’s all par for the course when a baby’s teeth break through the gum tissue. Who can blame her? There are things you can do to help ease the misery.






What can I expect?




Teething symptoms range widely from baby to baby. Some exhibit a few of the above symptoms, while others keep their parents busy day and night. On the other end of the spectrum are the lucky young souls, not to mention their parents, who breeze through the teething process without showing any symptoms at all.




Drooling may start several weeks before the tooth actually begins to erupt through the gum. If drooling is excessive, it can cause a rash on your baby’s chin, cheeks or upper chest. It helps to dry her chin with a clean cloth and apply petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, around the mouth. An absorbent sheet where she sleeps may also help.




When teething begins, babies are typically in the oral-discovery phase of development, which means they love to put everything they find into their mouths. Many gnaw on their fingers or toys to relieve gum discomfort around an incoming tooth. Some refuse to eat or drink because their mouths are sore.






How can I help my baby be more comfortable?




Mild teething symptoms that improve over a short period of time aren’t a cause for concern, but here are a few tricks to make them more tolerable:




• Massage the pain – Use a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to rub your baby’s gums. It’s also a good way to jumpstart the habit of running a wet washcloth over baby teeth for dental health.




• Try a teething ring – Use rubber rings instead of liquid-filled teething rings, since the latter may break. Some parents use frozen teething rings, but I don’t recommend this because the extreme cold may cause more pain. You can put the ring in the refrigerator instead.




• Offer a bottle – If a bottle helps your baby, be sure to fill it with water. Extended chewing or sucking on a bottle filled with formula, milk or juice may expose your baby to too much sugar, leading to tooth decay.




• Try to chill – It may help to hold a cold washcloth over sore gums. If your baby is eating solids, try offering cool foods, such as yogurt or applesauce.




• Over-the-Counter Remedies – Hyland’s Baby Teething Tablets offer a homeopathic treatment for teething pain that melts on the baby’s tongue. Another popular choice is Baby Orajel teething gel, which should be placed topically on the gums after the tooth has broken through. For babies who are in such discomfort from teething that they cry incessantly, use an over-the-counter acetaminophen-based pain medication, such as Infants’ Tylenol.






Should I take my baby to the doctor?




If teething symptoms don’t go away after a few days, or if they grow in severity, take your baby to the doctor. It’s possible that the pain is from something more serious, such as an infection. A common myth of teething is that it causes fever and diarrhea. Medical research does not support this belief.






Once my baby has teeth, how can I keep them healthy?




Dental health is a lifelong endeavor, and it’s never too early to keep a child’s teeth clean. Parents can use a washcloth or a finger toothbrush to wipe the new teeth. Once a child turns 1, it’s a good idea to brush his or her teeth with non-fluoridated toothpaste, which makes it safe to swallow.




Manisha Panchal, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Santa Clara Center. Advice is not intended to take the place of an exam or diagnosis by a physician.








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