In our last blog post, we talked about tooth development. It starts early (tooth buds actually begin forming as early as six weeks in utero, and in some cases, the first “buds” of teeth begin to take shape in the baby’s jaw as early as 5 weeks!) and – let’s be honest – teething feels like it goes on forever.
Although it varies from baby-to-baby, most children begin teething at about 5-6 months old. Usually, the bottom two teeth poke their heads out from the gums, followed by the top two front teeth.
Before the screaming and crying starts, how do you know when you need to go on Tooth Patrol? Excessive drooling, nighttime fussiness, chewing on any and everything, tears, and crankiness are a few signs to look for. Your baby also may run a low-grade fever (99◦) while teething. As I wrote last time, teething shouldn’t make your baby sick, so if your baby exhibits signs of diarrhea, vomiting, high fever (over 100.4◦), cough, or congestion, be sure to call your pediatrician. These are not typical signs of teething.
So, now your baby is on his/her way to building a beautiful smile. How do you both grin and bear it? Here are a few tips to soothe teething pain – for the both of you.
Go old school – Rub your baby’s gums. Using a clean finger or moistened gauze pad, rub your baby’s gums. By applying gentle counter-pressure to a baby’s sore gums can help ease the pain and discomfort of teething.
Keep it cool – A spoon chilled in the refrigerator (not the freezer, or it can stick!) or a chilled, non-gel teething ring can be soothing on your baby’s gums. If you do use a cold spoon, just be sure to apply the rounded part of the spoon to the baby’s gums, and it’s best to use this technique before any teeth actually break through.
Keep it fresh and clean – Frozen or just chilled, a cold, wet washcloth (dipped in water, breast milk, or—as some moms swear by—chamomile tea) can be comforting for baby to gnaw on.
Chew on – If your baby is eating solids, you might try something edible for him or her to chew on. Peeled and chilled cucumbers, carrots, frozen fruits are great ones to try. Or, you can soothe sore gums with cold foods like applesauce, yogurt or a tasty snack of chilled mashed bananas. TIP: To help prevent choking, place the fruit in a mesh feeder, and give that to your baby to lick or suck on. With a mesh feeder, you can also experiment with other types of cooked fruit, such as apples, strawberries, mangoes, or ripe pears.
Drool happens – Excessive drooling is a part of teething. Can’t be helped. Any time your baby chews on anything, the mouth produces saliva. Keep a clean cloth, or a bib, to wipe your baby’s face, keeping it clean and dry. This will prevent skin irritation. You can also consider applying a moisturizer such as a water-based cream or lotion.
When all else fails – Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is especially cranky, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Children’s Motrin, others) might help. Avoid anything that contains benzocaine or lidocaine.
We also know that babies will grab any and everything to chew on to help relieve the pressure in the gums. Fortunately for the fashionable moms out there, someone was smart enough to create specially designed teething jewelry. Check out www.smartmomjewelry.com for some cool, stylish and SAFE teething bling. (No affiliation with them, we just think it’s smart!)
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends establishing a dental home by age one or at the emergence of the first tooth, whichever comes first. When your baby’s first teeth appear, use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. And be sure to give us a call to set up a well-baby checkup.