Coping With Teething

April 1, 2009

Some babies are born with a tooth, others are precocious at 2 months, but most babies don't get their first tooth until the age of 6 months. First to pop out is a bottom front tooth. You can see that the surrounding gums are red and sore-looking. The gums may be swollen at the top of the tooth. Sometimes there is a water-filled blister just over the tooth.

Many parents find their babies have more pain with the eruption of the first tooth and with that of the last—the large molars. Sometimes increased sensitivity is due to having more than one tooth erupt at the same time. But there are lots of children who show no signs of discomfort whatsoever. When there is pain, it tends to come in waves, cresting and easing in equal turns.

Good Stuff--Things to Help With Teething Pain

You can help by providing good stuff to chew on, for instance, a good quality teething ring, or a cool washcloth. Cold foods can offer comfort, if your baby is old enough to eat. Try some applesauce or yogurt, straight from the fridge. Hard biscuits are wonderful for soothing sore gums; you can try zwieback or a plain cracker. A bit of oral massage can dampen the pain for a bit—just take a clean finger and rub your baby's gums with a firm touch. You'll be surprised at how firm a massage you can give your baby. You'll know you've got the right pressure when you elicit a blissful moment of silence. Let him be the judge of how much he can tolerate.

In the event that none of the above seems to provide any solace, you can speak to your physician about giving him a dose of acetaminophen. Never give aspirin to children under the age of 16, because of the association between the drug and the dangerous condition known as Reye's syndrome. Don't even rub it on his gums, an apparent Old World cure for teething.

Some parents find over-the-counter topical anesthetic gel a lifesaver, but careful how much you use—an excess can numb the back of the baby's throat. This, in turn, may impair the gag reflex, which reminds the baby to swallow. Without this reflex, his risk for choking on his own saliva is increased. There are rare allergic reactions to the gels, but most experts deem them safe.

Excess Drool When Teething

The excess drool that accompanies teething can sometimes cause more than a tooth to erupt—sometimes a baby breaks out in a rash from all the saliva bathing his face. Keep lots of soft clean cotton cloths for blotting your baby's face dry throughout the course of the day. Spreading a layer of petroleum jelly on his chin before naps and at bedtime can protect your baby's delicate skin from saliva-induced irritation, but you may want to keep in mind that the jelly can stain your bedding.

 

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