You baby is growing up fast which is exciting, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges, including the dreaded teething phase. Teething is a natural part of a baby's development, but it can be a trying time for both parents and infants. Let's dive into teething, what it is, how to recognize its signs, and offer some tips on how to comfort your little one during this uncomfortable period.
Teething typically begins when a baby is around 6 months old, although it can start as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months. This is the time when a baby's first teeth start to emerge through the gums. It's a gradual process that continues for several years, as your child will eventually have a full set of primary teeth (typically 20).
Teething can manifest in various ways, and while some babies breeze through it with minimal discomfort, others may experience more pronounced symptoms. Here are some common signs of teething:
Excessive drooling: Teething stimulates the production of saliva, causing your baby to drool more than usual.
Irritability: Your baby may become fussier than usual. The discomfort of teething can make them irritable and more prone to crying.
Gnawing and chewing: Babies often seek relief by biting and chewing on objects or their own fingers.
Swollen, red gums: The pressure of the emerging teeth can cause the gums to become swollen and tender, and sometimes look even red or purple like a bruise.
Sleep disturbances: Teething can disrupt your baby's sleep, leading to more frequent awakenings at night.
Changes in appetite: Some babies may lose their appetite during teething, while others might want to nurse or feed more frequently.
Low-grade fever: A slight increase in body temperature (typically under 100.4°F or 38°C) can occur during teething. If your child has a high fever, then calling your pediatrician is recommended.
Distinguishing Teething from Other Issues
While these signs are often indicative of teething, it's essential for parents to remain vigilant and ensure that these symptoms aren't related to other health concerns. To distinguish teething from other issues, consider the following:
Consult your pediatrician: If your baby's fever exceeds 100.4°F or if their symptoms persist or worsen, consult your pediatrician to rule out other illnesses.
Maintain good oral hygiene: To prevent dental issues, start a gentle oral hygiene routine early on. Use a soft, damp cloth to clean your baby's gums, even before teeth appear. Teething is more comfortable when plaque is low.
Look for other signs: Teething symptoms tend to focus on the mouth and gums. If your baby exhibits symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, or a persistent high fever, these are unlikely to be related to teething and should be checked by a healthcare professional.
Tips for Soothing a Teething Baby
Offer teething toys: Soft, safe teething toys can provide your baby with something to chew on, relieving gum discomfort.
Cold compresses: Chilled teething rings or a clean, wet washcloth placed in the refrigerator can provide soothing relief when applied to your baby's gums.
Gentle massages: Gently rub your baby's gums with a clean finger or a toothbrush to relieve some of the pressure.
Over-the-counter remedies: Over the counter pain relievers can be considered if disturbing sleep, but be sure to follow your pediatrician or pediatric dentist's recommendation for these medications. Avoid teething gels and local anesthetic gels since homeopathic gels and local anesthetics have been linked to toxic (and sometimes fatal) reactions in babies and young children.
Staying busy: A little distraction can go a long way for many people whether it is playing with a favorite toy, using a white noise machine during naps, or going on a walk and exploring nature.
Extra cuddles and patience: Sometimes, all your baby needs is a little extra comfort and reassurance during this challenging time.
Wrapping It Up
Teething is a natural phase in a baby's development, and while it can be challenging, it's a temporary phase. Recognizing the signs of teething and distinguishing them from other health concerns is essential for providing the right care and comfort to your child. By following the tips and strategies mentioned above, you can help your baby navigate the teething phase with as much ease and comfort as possible. Remember, each baby is unique, so be patient and responsive to their individual needs. If you are ever in doubt, never hesitate to call your pediatric dentist or pediatrician for further guidance.