by Dr. Alex Mayes, Pediatric Dentist and mom of 2
As a parent nothing makes us happier than our sweet babies hitting all of their milestones– from witnessing that first “social smile” that melts your heart and watching them roll their chubby little body over for the first time to their first words or first steps. One milestone, however, may not be as joyous for babies and parents, and that is teething. Don’t get me wrong, nothing can be cuter than a little gummy grin with a pair of little pearly whites sticking out, but man, can it be rough on everyone getting to that point! An uncomfortable, unhappy baby can mean a tired, unhappy parent. Let’s break down this teething situation so you can know what to expect in the coming months:
- The bottom front teeth usually start to make their appearance around 6 months of age. It can be normal for a couple months leading up to this to see your baby place his or her hands in her mouth, chew on objects, and drool– lots and lots of drool!
- You may notice a color change on the gums around this time. They may appear red and uncomfortable for a period (possibly with a little swelling) and then switch to a white blanched look when the teeth are ready to push through. Also, sometimes the gums can look bruised/ purplish as the tooth is coming in. The fancy word for this is “eruption hematoma”. Usually this is of no consequence, but it is always best to check with your pediatric dentist if you have any concerns about what’s normal.
- Unfortunately your child may be irritable during this time as well. As if you have not already suffered through a few sleep regressions at this point, sleep disturbances can be normal along with a low fever. If your child’s temperature goes above 101-degrees, something else could be going on, so check with your pediatrician to rule out any illness.
- If your child seems uncomfortable and fussy, over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help teething pain. Follow the dose based on your pediatrician’s recommendations for your child. Be cautious when using any sort of teething tablet. These can have varying amounts of an ingredient called “belladonna” that can be unsafe for your baby. Also, topical treatments like teething gels that have a numbing agent can be problematic if too much is used, so they are not generally good for babies. The systemic medications– acetaminophen or ibuprofen– will provide the best pain relief.
- Teething rings, rubber toothbrushes, teething mittens, cold washcloths, and even frozen foods are all good options to help soothe your baby’s angry gums. Putting your child’s teething toys in the refrigerator may provide some extra relief. Putting a wet washcloth in the fridge or freezer is a soft and soothing option.
- Depending on your baby’s age and diet, frozen foods can help as well. I have heard of parents using anything from a frozen carrot to a frozen waffle to soothe their baby. If choking is a concern, a mesh teether to hold frozen fruits can be a great option. If your baby is not developmentally ready for these types of foods, some clever mommas choose to make “breastmilk popsicles” for their babies chew on for some relief.
- This is a time that your baby may just require more snuggles and soothing. If they use a pacifier, this may provide some extra comfort to them during this time. Especially if they are getting their front teeth, chilling the pacifier in the refrigerator may be helpful as well.
- Keep these sweet little teeth clean. Babies can get cavities. Wipe them with a clean cloth after feedings and start the habit of brushing twice a day. See your pediatric dentist for recommendations regarding toothpaste, fluoride treatments, and other oral hygiene tips.