How to Get Your Baby Through Teething
The teething process is often a distressing time for babies and parents alike. Teething usually starts when a baby is about six months old, although teeth may start to emerge through the gums sooner – even before birth – or as late as a child’s first birthday.
The process can last for more than a year, and all the primary teeth (aka baby teeth or temporary teeth) should be in place by the time your baby’s two-and-a-half years old. The discomfort associated with teething may occur before you can see a tooth erupting through the gums.
There’s no telling how long it will take for each tooth to come through: with some infants, it may be only a few days; in others, it can be a more prolonged experience.
Teething can be painful for your little one, especially if several teeth cut through simultaneously, and it’s only natural that you’ll get upset as well. Nevertheless, there are certain steps you can take to help lessen the distress.
You can also take some comfort from the fact that although your infant will grow new teeth over a long period, they won’t actually be teething the entire time.
Here are a few measures to help your baby get through teething.
Massage your baby’s sore gums with a finger, using gentle pressure and smooth, circular movements. You’ll be able to tell which teeth are coming through, and focus on those areas. You can use this method when you put your baby down to sleep. If they wake up during the night, a gum massage may help them get back to sleep.
It probably goes without saying, but we’ll spell it out anyway: be sure to wash your hands before putting your fingers in your little one’s mouth. You can also use a moistened gauze pad to massage the gums.
Gently pressing a cold (not frozen) object onto your baby’s gums can bring him or her some much-needed relief during teething. It helps to numb pain and reduce swelling in the same way that it works on a sprained ankle. Use a chilled teething ring, cold spoon, or a cold, damp cloth.
Don’t use this method once a tooth has broken through: it might damage the tooth. Never use frozen objects (they can stick to the gums, causing even more pain), and always keep an eye on your baby when they have things in their mouth.
Cold food such as apple sauce or yogurt right before bedtime can help a teething infant to get off to sleep by numbing discomfort in the gums.
Parents.com, which aims to help moms and dads raise healthy and happy kids, recommends whole peas – steamed, boiled or frozen – as a nutritious means of providing relief while a baby is teething. The advice platform says that even when frozen, peas pose no risk of choking, because of their small size.
If your baby is having problems sleeping at night because of teething pain, try to maintain a regular routine to signal it’s sleep time, and provide a calm environment. Getting your baby ready for sleep by quietly singing to them while gently rocking them can help to soothe them during teething.
The bedtime program might include a warm bath, gentle massage, a story time, and putting on pajamas. Activities like this should soon start to tell your baby it’s bedtime and help them to sleep better. Once you’ve set a procedure, stick to it. Changing the routine can disrupt normal sleep patterns.
Pain Relief Medication
If nothing else is working, you might consider children’s versions of painkillers such as acetaminophen, but check with your doctor first. For infants at least 6 months old, ibuprofen is another option for reducing gum inflammation, but bear in mind it can irritate the stomach.
Numbing creams or gels are available over the counter for your baby's gums. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that medications containing benzocaine should not be used for infants under two years old, without the say-so from a doctor.
Teething Time is Dentist Time!
Parents are advised by the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) to take their baby for their first dental appointment soon after the first tooth appears.
This first dental visit is crucial, so it’s important to find a dentist experienced in treating little ones – a considerate professional you can trust to give your baby the best possible dental care. Look for a dental office that specializes in pediatric care. An adult-oriented practice may be off-putting for an infant.
Your baby’s first dental visit will also enable the pediatric dentist to provide you with the know-how to ensure your baby’s teeth grow healthily, and advise you on how to get your baby through teething. An early dental check can also detect any potential concerns before they become serious issues.
Signs That Your Baby is Teething
You can begin to brush your baby's teeth as they start to emerge – with a baby toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. This is important because primary teeth play a vital role in reserving space for the permanent teeth.
Signs that your baby is teething may include:
- Flushed cheeks or a rash on the face.
- Heavy drooling.
- Rubbing their gums.
- Ear tugging.
- Loss of appetite.
- Mild fever.
- General irritability.
- Blisters on the gums.
If symptoms of teething continue for more than a few days at a time, your baby’s distress may be down to other causes, and you might want to consult a doctor or pediatric dentist.