Author: Sara Jo Foley, APRN
Teething in infants can be a stressful time for both parent and child. Although some infants have no symptoms at all as teeth are erupting, others can be uncomfortable while the teeth break the surface. The most common symptoms reported by parents are irritability, excessive drooling, and gum irritation. Many parents report their child feels warm, but true fever is not generally associated with teething and should be evaluated for a more serious source than tooth eruption.
For teething relief, management includes chewing on a cool (but not frozen!) teething ring or toy with supervision, that is not coated in any sugary substance. Any teething device that wraps around a baby’s neck or wrist is not recommended due to choking hazards, strangulation, injury to the mouth, or infection. Additionally, over-the-counter teething tablets or gels have been discredited as being and frequently contain harmful substances. Additionally, Tylenol and Motrin are not routinely recommended for teething discomfort except in the most extreme circumstances. Massaging gums with a clean finger dipped in cool water prior to the start of a feeding could help to reduce a breastfeeding baby from using mom as a teething reliever (Ouch!).
Eruption of teeth tends to follow a known pattern with left and right teeth of either the upper or lower gums erupting at approximately the same time. Most commonly, the central incisors are the first Eruption begins on average between 6-10 months of age but is not considered delayed until the eruption has not occurred for six (6) months past the average age. For example, if a child has no teeth at 16 months then further evaluation is warranted.
Once those cute little teeth have erupted, cleaning the teeth regularly with a soft-bristle toothbrush and a rice grain-sized amount of toddler toothpaste with fluoride. It is also important to include that avoiding allowing a child to fall asleep with a bottle prevents dental decay.