Parents have been asking me a mouthful of questions about what to do to help their baby through teething. Well let me bite into this topic and provide some information.
Teething can begin as early as three months of age with some drooling and can continue until a child reaches three years of age, which is about when all 20 of the baby teeth have come in.
For some babies, teething is painless and for others it may make them irritable and cranky with crying and problems sleeping. It rarely if ever causes fever, so if your child is irritable and has a fever of more than one degree above normal please talk with your child’s doctor before you write it off to teething, because the fever is going to be due to something else. In addition, teething has not been proven to cause congestion with increased mucus production, or diarrhea.
So what do we do for baby’s tender and swollen gums? I recommend giving baby something to chew on – something that is too big to swallow or choke on and that cannot be broken into smaller pieces. A wet washcloth or a rubber teething ring placed in the freezer for 30 minutes makes a great teething toy, but don’t leave it in the freezer longer than that or these objects may cause frostbite of the gums.
If medication is needed, you can try acetaminophen, but avoid rubbing teething gels or alcoholic beverages on the gums since these can be quite dangerous if they get into the bloodstream.
To care for teeth as they emerge, wipe the gums with a clean damp washcloth until teeth are big enough to brush with an infant toothbrush. Also, remember not to let baby fall asleep with a bottle of milk or juice in their mouth as the sugar in these drinks can be great food for bacteria to grow and in turn decay the teeth.
Hopefully tips like these will not be considered painful ones when it comes to knowing a little bit more about teething.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.