As both a dentist and a mommy, I get numerous questions about baby teething both at the office and in my own circle of friends. As a first time parent, many areas of parenting and childcare seem like such a mystery. We struggle our best by trial and error and constantly wonder if the question or problem really requires us to take a trip to the pediatrician. Do we want to shell out a co-pay or “wait it out” and see if the problem resolves on its own?
Well, my hope is that I can provide you with a little relief in this area child-rearing. Babies go through so many changes so quick, baby teething can bring about difficulties that feel like an eternity! Just when your bundle is finally sleeping through the night and you are settling in to the groove of being a new parent, the process throws you a new curve ball. Around 6-7 months, you may find your baby acquires some peculiar behavior and not all of it is enjoyable!
In general, the process of baby teeth begins at 3-4 months old, despite the fact that a tooth may not appear for several months after. The baby teeth start their ascent into the mouth during this time and parents may notice some of the following behaviors in their infant: Excessive drooling, crankiness, biting and sticking objects in their mouths, coughing or colds, cheek or ear-pulling and unfortunately, night waking! While all of these can be signs baby teething, they can also be signs of other problems, so when in doubt, don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician-that is what they are there for!
As these new baby teeth make their way in, they typically cause a lot of pressure and discomfort inside the gums. This process can cause crankiness and irritability and even cause baby to wake up at night in a crabby mood. Babies often try to relieve this pressure during the day by chewing on any object they can fit in their mouth, including their hands. In addition, this grand appearance of teeth very much stimulates saliva flow, causing baby to drool excessively. All of these habits can cause other related issues for baby. Excessive drooling during baby teething can cause a rash on the chin as well as stimulate the coughing and gagging reflex. They may also experience discomfort that is referred to the ears or cheeks. The rashes are not usually a problem unless you find the rash to be causing pain, has open sores or bleeding. If this occurs, see your pediatrician for medicated creams to help heal the area and make baby comfortable again.
While ear and cheek pulling can be a sign or baby teething, it can also be a sign of an ear infection. My kids have had their fair share of ear infections and they can be such a frustrating experience. I have noticed ear and cheek pulling from baby teething to be pretty infrequent. So, my suggestion would be that if you see this behavior, especially if accompanied with a fever, have your child evaluated by the pediatrician. Ear infections can be a very painful experience with possible complications and should not be “waited out.”
The drooling may also cause loose or runny bowel movements, but generally not diarrhea. If your baby has diarrhea lasting more than a day, call your pediatrician. While baby is trying to relieve pressure by putting object and fingers into their mouth, they unfortunately can be introducing unwanted germs into their bodies. So, you may notice and increase in colds or illnesses which may cause mild fevers. Fevers are not believed to be from teething directly, but are thought to be from the “bugs” that babies expose themselves to while going through the baby teething process.
So, how can you help your precious baby through this tough time which can last for months? Baby teething rings and toys or cold foods are a good start. Be sure that they are foods your baby is normally able to eat without choking! You can also gently massage the gums with your own fingers but please be sure to wash your hands first! Baby Orajel can be used, however, as a dentist I can tell you that unless you dry the area of gums completely before applying, it really will not work-you’ll only be providing bad taste and a numb tongue! So, if you can dry the area well, and your pediatrician has given you the recommendation to use it, then see if it works for your baby. Infant Tylenol or acetaminophen is another great option when baby is having a really difficult time during baby teething. However, before giving your baby any kind of medicine, always consult your pediatrician and be sure that you give the proper dosage for your child.
Baby teething is just the beginning of your mysterious parental journey. One topic often forgotten about is how to care for and what is normal once your baby’s teeth have actually come in. I receive many questions about toddler and adolescent teeth because none of the parenting books address it and pediatricians are not taught about teeth. On my site, “Your kid’s Teeth [http://www.your-kids-teeth.com] – A Comprehensive Guide for Parents and Caregivers,” I address these common questions and give answers that will help you be well informed for years to come. Toddler’s teeth [http://your-kids-teeth.com/toddlers-teeth/] form the foundation for adult teeth and are so important. The common myth of, “They are just baby teeth, aren’t they going to just fall out anyway?” attitude has cost many parents financially and emotionally. Be informed and feel confident that you are not only caring correctly for your child’s teeth, but feel armed with confidence when taking them to the dentist.