Chances are you may have noticed that babies love to chew on objects, are fussy and drool a lot. These typical habits and characteristics of babies can be attributed to teething. Teething typically begins at the age of six to eight months. This is the period in which the infant’s teeth grow in (or erupt) through the gums. The teeth come in pairs with the front middle teeth coming in first and the last molars in the back coming in last. All 20 teeth are in by the time the child is 3 years of age. The teeth that come in during this stage are called baby teeth. These teeth are temporary, eventually falling out starting between the ages of three and six. They are replaced by the permanent teeth which come in in the same way as the baby teeth did; in pairs and the front first and the molars last. Teething has for a long time been incorrectly called “cutting.” Despite popular belief, the cells and tissue of the gums are killed off by certain hormones which allow the teeth to fully erupt through the gums.
Symptoms of Teething
Teething is an unpleasant experience for an infant. It usually involves pain and soreness, especially when the molars come in. Symptoms of teething can begin as early as tree months. Common symptoms include:
· drooling or dribbling
· mood changes
· irritability or crankiness
· swollen gums
· restless sleep at night
· mild fever
· painful and sensitive gums
Fortunately, teething is a temporary phase that last a few years. There are no treatment options to totally eradicate the pain, but there is a wide range of treatment options available to help lessen the severity of the pain and soreness.
The traditional, and most common way, to relieve the teething pain is by some sort of soft, yet firm toy a baby can continuously chew on. Teething toys allow the baby to put pressure on the irritated gums as well as aid in the breakdown of gum tissue to help the teeth emerge easier. These teething devices come in all sorts of shapes and sizes from carrot sticks, to toys to damp washcloths.
Cold foods also help relieve the pain for some infants. Items such as pureed fruits and vegetables, applesauce and yogurt work best and are the easiest for the baby to swallow.
Sometimes chewing on a toy or a cold object may not be enough to relieve the teething pain. In these cases, a pediatrician may recommend pain-relieving medication. The medication most often prescribed are NSAIDS and child-safe doses of benzocaine, lidocaine, and choline salicylate. These medications need to be closely monitored as incorrect dosages and combinations can cause serious health complications.
Rub on Gels
Lidocaine gel, which is rubbed onto the gums can also be used. It creates a temporary numbing sensation that can relieve the pain for 10-20 minutes. Other gels, which are similar to those used to treat sore gums and toothaches in adults are also prescribed. These numbing gels dull the nerves of the gums, reducing the feeling of pain. There are also powder forms of teething gel called “teething powder.”
Pediatricians may recommend child-safe doses of Acetaminophen and ibuprofen in extreme cases where the pain is severe.
Teething is an exciting, yet difficult time for both babies and their parents. It is an important phase of growth. As important as this phase it, it can be overwhelming in trying to figure out how to help your child. It is never too early to establish positive dental hygiene habits with your child.