Infants who start to grow teeth may feel very distressed due to the discomfort. The gums are generally soft and tender before a new tooth erupts. As a new tooth breaks the surface, the area of the gums may appear swollen or red over the tooth. This usually happens on the sixth month of a child’s life. However, some children may start to grow teeth when the baby turns two months old.
The lower central incisors or the bottom two teeth are usually the first to appear. It is then followed by the upper central incisors, or the two upper front teeth. A classic symptom of teething is drooling, which usually starts at about two months before the first tooth erupts. A baby may also be irritable, cranky, and may have difficulty sleeping, which can be noticed 3-5 days before the tooth shows. Teething pain can also interfere with a child’s feeding pattern.
Parents often dismiss other symptoms like fever with a temperature of greater than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, diarrhea, cough, vomiting, decreased urine output, and runny nose because they correlate it to teething. However, parents should not be complacent when they notice these symptoms because they are not associated with teething. Your baby has to be checked by your doctor to rule out other causes.
Teething can be uncomfortable for your baby, but there are home remedies that can ease your baby’s discomfort. Teething rings help because babies get relief from the gentle pressure on their gums from chewing. Choose the ones made of firm rubber because it may be safer to use than those filled with water. The liquid-filled variety may cause potential injury when it breaks. A baby bottle may even work but it should be filled with water, and not juice or milk. Prolonged contact from sugar found in milk, juice or formula can lead to tooth decay.
Babies are also often relieved with cold objects. Teething rings that can be placed in the refrigerator can provide soothing coolness. Never place the teething ring inside the freezer because it may only hurt your baby. You can also have your baby bite down on a cold washcloth to provide relief. Parents need to be cautious during this time because babies may put anything in their mouths, which may cause choking. Keep all objects that are choking hazards away from your child’s reach.
Since teething causes feeding problems, it may be wise to use teething nipples so that your baby can better tolerate feedings. If your baby has started eating solid foods, you can offer his favorite food cold, such as yogurt or applesauce. Rashes are also common to babies who drool. A simple way to prevent skin irritation is to always wipe your baby’s face with a clean cloth every time he drools.
Parents may be tempted to buy over-the-counter medicines to relieve teething pain. However, it may not be safe to do so without your doctor’s advice. Many of these topical gels contain benzocaine, which is a local anesthetic, and if applied too far back in the throat may interfere with the gag reflex. Parents should also avoid giving aspirin to a child because it has been associated with Reye’s syndrome. Although teething can be usually handled at home, parents still need to be alert for symptoms, which may warrant a visit to the doctor.