All About Teething
Swollen cheeks, high temperatures, sore gums and sleepless nights. Teething can be really tough. So let’s take a look at what to expect and how to combat it.
Knowing that your little one is going through the pain and discomfort of teething can be really difficult — especially as you know they’re going to have to put up with it until they have a full set of pearly whites!
On top of that, old stories of the dangers of teething can be really anxiety-inducing. So, we’re going to be taking a look at the facts: what’s normal, what’s not, and how you can soothe your baby’s sore little gums.
What to Expect
Teething age can vary wildly, with some children even being born with their first teeth! That said, most children will begin teething at around 5 to 7 months, and have a full set of milk teeth by the age of 2 and a half.
Usually, the first teeth to come through are the bottom incisors, followed by the top ones. Molars and canines will follow later!
It used to be believed that teeth had to cut through bone and connective tissues to erupt. In reality, this is not the case — nothing so horribly painful is occurring! Babies’ discomfort is more likely due, at least in part, to having a low pain threshold.
So what side effects should you look out for?
Teething can cause a number of minor side effects, including:
- Red, slightly swollen gums where the tooth is coming through.
- A slight swelling of the cheek on one side.
- Dribbling more than usual (which in turn may cause irritated skin)
- A mild temperature of around 38C
- Rubbing their ear, face or gums.
- Chewing on things more than usual.
- Being fretful or not sleeping well.
A number of other side effects have been attributed to teething in the past, including, very high fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, a bad rash, decreased appetite for liquids or a cough. These, however, are not direct results of teething, and could be signs of anything from a bacterial infection to meningitis.
In fact, during the teething period, passive immunity to a range of illnesses from the mother’s antibodies wanes, meaning children are simply more likely to get sick. Before advancements in medicine during the 19th Century, these other illnesses were often mistaken for teething, due to the coincidence in timing. Unfortunately, as information on teething is often passed down through families and communities, and scientific literature has not been widely circulated, some of these myths perpetuate to this day.
If your little one is experiencing any severe symptoms, be sure to contact your doctor.
How do you soothe a teething baby?
Luckily, there are a lot of options!
- Teething Rings
These are essentially safe chew toys for babies! Chewing can help to relieve pain by overwhelming the sensory receptors, and some teething rings can be chilled to reduce inflammation, too. Interestingly, an early iteration of this was a silver spoon, which is where the phrase ‘born with a silver spoon in one’s mouth’ comes from!
If you do opt for a teething ring, only cool it in the fridge (frozen items can damage the gums), keep it clean, and regularly check for cracks, as these can harbour nasty bacteria. Be especially careful with liquid-filled teething rings — you don’t want that liquid getting out.
Never put a teething ring on a string or rope, as these pose a choking hazard.
For the same reason that chewing works, rubbing your little one’s gums can reduce the pain! You could even try dipping your fingers in cold water beforehand.
Make sure your fingers are, of course, thoroughly cleaned before you stick them in your baby’s mouth.
If your little one is over 6 months and eating solids, pieces of hard food, such as apple, carrot or breadsticks can be great to chew on.
However, be careful of sharp edges (especially on apples), as a cut gum isn’t going to help! Snacks high in sugar should also be avoided, as these can cause tooth decay (even this young!), and remember to always keep a vigilant eye on your little one, in case a piece of food breaks off and poses a choking hazard.
- Wipe Their Face
This one’s not for the teeth but for the skin! Some babies dribble a lot while teething, and this can cause discomfort and even skin irritation. Try to keep your little one’s face dry.
A simple one: playing with your little one can help distract them from the pain! Soothing hugs and songs can also help them to feel a little better. Don’t underestimate the power of care and attention!
- Stick to Routine
If your baby’s sleep is being disrupted by their teething, it can be tempting to put off bedtime or change your routine around. However, sticking to a routine is one of the best ways to help a small child feel secure and comfortable, and disruptions may only cause more stress.
What about medication?
If your little one is in a lot of pain, you may want to give them paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you do, make sure to use an infant formula, and follow the dosage instructions on the box. Remember that children under the age of 16 should never consume aspirin.
There is a severe lack of evidence supporting the efficacy of teething gels. Even in adults, studies have shown that the placebo effect is responsible for much of the reported pain relief.
Additionally, the active ingredients in teething gel, such as lidocaine and benzocaine, can be very dangerous to babies if they are given too much (which can happen quite easily with a gel).
If you do choose to use a teething gel, ensure it is designed for a child of your baby’s age, and stick to the dosage instructions.
Homeopathic teething gels do not have any proven benefits. However, if you do choose to use one, ensure it is licensed for use in the UK to guarantee its safety. You can find a list of licensed homeopathic teething gels here.
What about amber?
Amber has been used for teething for centuries, but, unfortunately, not all folk remedies are grounded in science.
Baltic amber was believed to contain succinic acid, which, when the stones were worn against the skin, would transfer into the body in small amounts and reduce inflammation.
Recent studies have examined this closely. While baltic amber does contain succinic acid, they found no evidence to suggest that it could be released from the beads into the skin (in fact, the researchers had quite a hard time getting the succinic acid out at all).
On top of that, when the acid was tested separately, it was found to have no anti-inflammatory properties. Rather, it can be toxic at high concentrations.
So, unfortunately, those pretty amber bracelets aren’t going to do much for teething. They can, however, provide a choking hazard.
So, I hope you found something in this blog to help your little one through the discomfort of teething!
However, if you are at all worried about your baby’s health during teething, please do contact your doctor.
If you have any questions, want to share your at-home teething remedies, or have a subject you’d like to hear more about, drop us a message via our Instagram!
Until next week!
Content Creator at MEplace