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The facts behind teething and tips to ease the discomfort.


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The facts behind teething and tips to ease the discomfort.

Gerber Life Family Times Archive

ImageNo doubt your box of pictures from childhood is filled with plenty of gum-filled and gap-toothed smiles, all forever captured to share with your children. Although you may remember the discomfort of losing those first baby teeth as they made room for your adult teeth, only your parents remember the crying and fussing that accompanied your baby teeth as they made their debut through your delicate pink gums. The entire process, and the overall discomfort associated with it, was summed up with one word—"teething."

Although the symptoms might make parents feel otherwise, there is nothing dangerous about teething. Teething is a natural event in the process of moving from infant to toddler. According to the Mayo Clinic, the typical age when teething begins varies widely, but most babies begin teething by about 6 months of age. At the onset of teething, the lower central incisors (two bottom front teeth) are usually the first to appear. They are typically followed by the upper central incisors (two top front teeth). The American Dental Association (ADA) notes that during the first few years of life, all 20 of the primary teeth will erupt through the gums and most children will have their full set of primary teeth by the age of three. During the process of the first teeth breaking through the gums, the ADA notes that a harmless, watery sac called an eruption cyst may develop on the gum. The eruption cyst should be left alone and the tooth will eventually break the watery sac as it pushes its way through the gum.

Early signs that teething is imminent are classic and include:

  • Crankiness
  • Chewing on solid objects
  • Drooling, which may begin about two months before the first tooth appears
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen gums
  • Trouble sleeping

For parents looking for a method to soothe a baby's sore gums, the Mayo Clinic offers the following tips:

  • Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth nearby to dry your baby's chin and lay a clean cloth under your baby's head while he or she sleeps to help keep the sheet dry.
  • The pressure of rubbing your baby's gums with a clean finger, damp washcloth, or moistened gauze pad can ease your baby's discomfort.
  • A teething ring made of firm rubber may help as well. Avoid liquid-filled teething rings that may break under the pressure of your baby's chewing. For some babies, a baby bottle nipple does the trick. If so, the Mayo Clinic advises that the bottle should be filled with water since prolonged contact with the sugars found in formula, milk, and juice may lead to tooth decay.
  • A cold washcloth or chilled teething ring may be soothing as well. The Mayo Clinic advises parents to avoid frozen teething rings as the extreme cold may hurt. If your baby is eating solid foods, cold foods such as yogurt and applesauce may help.
  • If your baby is cranky or has trouble sleeping, consult with your doctor. Your doctor may advise over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen as a pain reliever. Never give babies products that contain aspirin! The Mayo Clinic notes that many doctors don't recommend teething liquids or gels that can be applied to the gum since most of the medication can be washed away by the baby's drool before it has a chance to provide any relief. In addition, too much of the numbing medication may numb your baby's throat and interfere with his or her normal gag reflex.

Dealing with teething issues can usually be handled at home. Both the ADA and Mayo Clinic note, however, that teething does not cause fever, colds, or diarrhea. If your baby shows those symptoms or seems particularly uncomfortable, call your doctor because these are signs or symptoms of another illness.

Once your baby's new teeth are in, the ADA advises brushing them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little bit of water to prevent tooth decay. Do not use toothpaste until a child reaches the age of two and, at that time, the child should be supervised to make sure he or she does not swallow the toothpaste. After the first tooth appears, but no later that the first birthday, the ADA recommends the start of regular dental check-ups for a lifetime of good oral health.

A baby's toothless smile can warm any parent's heart but developing those first teeth means your little one is growing up. With the help of some techniques to soothe the pain, your baby will have his or her baby teeth in no time and you can start preparing for the regular visits from the "Tooth Fairy!"

As with any health issues, always consult with your family physician, health care provider, or dentist regarding your family's specific needs and issues.

Mayo Clinic—
American Dental Association—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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