Author: Dr. Chiu Chi Yin Eugene
As parents, one of the milestones we eagerly anticipate is the eruption of our baby’s first tooth. However, teething can be a challenging time for both babies and parents. Understanding what to expect and recognizing common teething issues can help parents cope with this natural process.
Before we start talking about teething issues, we have to emphasize that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that teething and systemic symptoms are related. It is important to note that if an infant shows severe signs of systemic illness, this should not be attributed to teething, and immediate medical attention should be sought. In an attempt to sooth teething, unnecessary medications can pose harm to our children. For example, teething gels that contain the numbing agent benzocaine should not be used on children under two years of age, as they have been known to cause methemoglobinemia in extreme cases. (1) Furthermore, teething gels can cause numbness in the back of the throat, which can interfere with swallowing and the gag reflex, putting the child at risk of choking. (1) False beliefs about teething may delay the early diagnosis and management of other serious illnesses. If your baby encounters any severe systemic symptoms like fever, please take your child to consult with your medical doctor ASAP.
What to Expect and Common Teething Issues
Teething typically begins between 4 to 6 months of age, although some babies may start earlier or later. The bottom front teeth are usually the first to erupt, followed by the top front teeth, and then the molars and canines. By the time a child is 2 or 3 years old, they should have a full set of 20 primary teeth. (2) During teething, babies may experience a range of symptoms. One common misconception about teething is that it causes fever and diarrhea. However, studies have shown that teething does not cause systemic symptoms, but it can cause local symptoms, such as gum pain, drooling, and irritability. (2) Some infants may also experience ear pulling, cheek flushing, and mild fever. These symptoms are caused by inflammation of the gums as the teeth push through and are not related to systemic problem. (3)
Recognizing common teething issues can help parents identify when their baby is teething and differentiate it from other illnesses. Some common teething issues include:
- Gum pain: Teething babies may experience discomfort and soreness in their gums as the teeth push through. They may rub their gums with their fingers, toys, or other objects to relieve the pain.
- Drooling: Increased drooling is a common teething symptom, and it can lead to skin irritation and rash around the mouth and chin. To prevent skin irritation, parents should wipe their baby’s chin and mouth frequently with a clean cloth.
- Irritability and fussiness: Teething babies may become more irritable and fussier than usual due to the discomfort and pain they are experiencing.
- Sleep disturbances: Teething can disrupt a baby’s sleep patterns, causing them to wake up more frequently during the night.
- Refusal to eat: Some babies may refuse to eat or drink because of the soreness in their gums
In order to effectively care for a teething baby, it is important for parents to understand and recognize common teething issues. In the following section, we will explore strategies for managing these issues and providing support to teething infants.
Coping with Teething Issues
After knowing some common issues about teething, we must know what we can do for our babies to better cope with it. Here are some tips for coping with teething issues:
- Provide something safe and clean for your baby to chew on. Chewing on a teething ring or a cold washcloth can provide relief for sore gums. Avoid giving your baby anything that is too hard or that can break into small pieces and pose a choking hazard.
- Massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a soft, wet cloth. Gently rubbing your baby’s gums can help relieve the pain and discomfort they are experiencing.
- Use distraction techniques. Singing or playing with your baby can help take their mind off the discomfort. Playing with safe toys and spending time outside can also help distract your baby from teething discomfort.
- Maintaining good oral hygiene during teething is also important to prevent tooth decay. Parents should clean their baby’s gums and teeth regularly with a soft, wet cloth or a toothbrush. Parents should consult with their pediatrician or dentist before using toothpaste, as too much fluoride in the toothpaste can cause dental fluorosis, a condition that causes white spots or streaks on the teeth. (3)
- In addition to providing relief for teething discomfort, some parents may also opt for homeopathic or natural remedies. However, it is important to note that the safety and efficacy of these remedies have not been scientifically proven. Some natural remedies, such as clove oil, may even be harmful to babies if used incorrectly. It is best to consult with a healthcare professional before using any natural remedies for teething.
In conclusion, teething is a natural process that every baby goes through, but it can be a challenging time for both babies and parents. Understanding what to expect, recognizing common teething issues, and using the tips provided by dental professionals can help parents cope with teething discomfort and maintain good oral health for their baby. Parents should consult with their pediatrician or dentist if they have any concerns about their baby’s teething or oral health.
- Yousif MK. Mothers’ false beliefs and myths associated with teething. Qatar Med J. 2020;2020(2):32.
- Teething and Tooth Eruption in Infants: A Literature Review. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, 2019.
- 5 Tips for Coping with Teething Babies. American Dental Association, 2020.