Teething is medically termed odontiasis and it is the process by which an infant’s teeth erupt, or break through the gums. Teething is also referred to as “cutting” of the teeth. Teething period in growing children as many parents have described, is one of the most challenging periods in parenting.
When your baby is around 4 to 7 months old, it’s common to see signs of teething. The process of teething may cause some discomfort for your little one as he or she gets their first set of teeth. These baby or primary teeth, which can appear from as young as 3 months or even as old as 12 to 14 months, will start to grow and eventually have to break through the gums. This can cause swelling and soreness just before the tooth comes through. In very rare cases, some babies (about 1 in 2000) may even be born with a tooth already visible.
It’s important to be able to recognize teething symptoms so you’ll know what to expect when your baby starts to show signs of those first tiny teeth. And, when you’re faced with those teething tears.
Signs and Symptoms of Teething in Infants
The symptoms aren’t the same for every baby, but they may include:
- More biting – Teething infants may bite on their toys or even fingers to help relieve the pressure they feel on their gums.
- Loss of appetite – Babies may lose their appetite or refuse to eat and drink because their mouth hurts.
- More drooling – One of the signs a baby is teething is an increase in drooling. As a result of excessive drooling, some babies may get diarrhea, which can in turn lead to diaper rash.
- Rash around the mouth area – Excessive drooling may cause a mild rash around the baby’s mouth, chin and chest, so it’s important to keep an eye on the baby, and wipe any drool away. Take care not to wipe too often, though, as this can also irritate the skin.
- More sucking – Like biting, this symptom is a result of your baby trying to relieve the pressure from a tooth that’s about to come up from the gums.
- Ear pulling – Some infants may pull on their ears to help relieve the pain due to those sore gums.
- Difficulty sleeping – Due to the discomfort from the swelling and soreness, your baby may find it difficult to sleep at night or during naptime.
- Irritability – Don’t be surprised if your little one is fussy or cranky when new teeth are on their way.
- Teething fever – It’s possible that a baby who is teething may have a slightly elevated body temperature, sometimes known as teething fever.
Management and Teething Treatment
Often, the infant will feel better when gentle pressure is placed on the gums. For this reason, many doctors recommend gently rubbing the gums with a clean finger or having the child bite down on a clean washcloth. If the pain seems to be causing feeding problems, sometimes a different-shaped nipple or use of a cup may reduce discomfort and improve feeding.
Cold objects may help reduce the inflammation as well. Veteran parents have discovered the usefulness of frozen washcloths for this purpose. Be careful to avoid having prolonged contact of very cold objects on the gums. Also, never put anything into a child’s mouth that might cause the child to choke.
Some controversy surrounds the use of pain medicines. Medicines like topical pain relievers containing benzocaine should not be used for teething. The FDA warns that dangerous, sometimes life-threatening side effects can be caused by such products.
Medicines that are taken by mouth to help reduce the pain like Acetaminophen (Children’s Tylenol) and Ibuprofen should not be used in infants less than 6 months old. They should be used only for the few times when the other home care methods do not help. Caution should be taken not to overmedicate for teething. speak to your doctor and do not give children products containing aspirin.