The Miserable Teething Infant
Parenting a newborn is tough stuff. Sleepless nights, learning to breastfeed, colic problems, vaccinations, and a million other things await the new mom. As soon as you think you’ve got stuff under control, teething starts. Parents out there know how miserable a teething baby can be. And of course, a miserable child means a miserable mom. That said, there is so much confusion about what issues you can expect from a teething child. Lots of the symptoms that parents blame on teething simply are not supported by research. To help set the record straight, teething doesn’t cause diarrhea or diaper rash, fever, or a runny nose. Those are all a myth. If your baby has these problems, consider visiting their pediatrician. Teething babies do drool and put everything in their mouth. The constant exposure to viruses from the fingers in their mouth, combined with a rapid decline in antibodies that mommy had given the unborn child makes for a real challenge for the immune system of a 6-8 month old baby. So the fever and diarrhea type symptoms really aren’t from teething alone.
My personal experience- My first daughter didn’t seem to be bothered a whole lot when she was teething. It seemed she would wake up one day and we would notice new teeth in the mix. Easy. We weren’t so lucky with our second one though. She was very uneasy while teeth were cutting through. She would refuse eating for a few days sometimes. Her hungry and sleepless face would be drenched with drool all over; her fingers were always in her mouth along with anything else around that would fit in there. We tried many things. Some worked and others didn’t.
Here’s some suggestions from what I’ve heard from interviewing thousands of parents as well as my personal experience :
- For majority of infants, over the counter teething ointments aren’t very helpful. They are unnecessary numbing chemicals that only work for minutes before being ingested. If fact, if you read the instructions in the back, they are intended for use by kids over age 2. It turns out that children stop teething by then.
- Using cold instead of numbing ointment may be as good if not better that the medication. The cold soothes their gums and is much safe. Freezable teething toys (or cold celery) also give the infant something to chew and help the erupting tooth break through.
- Take out the toothbrush. As soon as a tooth breaks through the gums, bacteria rush to the site and irritate the area. Use the brush to minimize inflammation and discomfort. This method will also help the child become comfortable with a toothbrush from the earliest possible time.
- Take caution with the beads. I know so many moms that are passionate about how helpful amber teething beads have been for their child. Theoretically, when beads made of Baltic amber are worn against the skin, body heat triggers the release of a minute amounts of oils that contain succinct acid, used in the past for rheumatic aches and pains. I’ve also heard many mom’s say they’ve tried them and noted no difference. Even the best manufactured and custom sized bead necklace could pose a choking hazard.
- Minimize and manage the irritated skin around the mouth. Kids may drool so much during teething that they would end up with a bunch of little red bumps around her mouth and chin. The typical “perioral dermititis” can be helped with a little A&D ointment to help keep the skin moist and support its healing. Of course the cream shouldn’t be ingested.
- Frozen yogurt to the rescue. Parents often find freezing organic YoBaby gogurts to help the teething child feel better is a great way to get them relief from cold and nutrients for their poor appetite.
So, teething is no fun but the good news is that children have been teething since the beginning of history, but unlike the cavemen, you can always count on your pediatric dentist to help you manage it all.
Dr J is a board certified pediatric dentist, serving his hometown in San Diego at one the most respected specialty practices, Scripps Pediatric Dentistry. He is an honors graduate of UC Berkeley, and UCLA School of Dentistry. His specialty training was completed as Chief Resident at UNC, one of only 2 three year pediatric programs in the US. He is an associate professor at UCLA in pediatric dentistry and on staff at Rady Children’s Hospital. He is also a proud father to two girls.