Teething: it’s a process every baby goes through, and which most parents dread. And for a good reason. Teething is uncomfortable for babies, and the pain is often enough to transform your happy, smiling cherub into a ball of sadness and discomfort. As a parent, you feel helpless. What can you do to soothe the pain? How can you help your little one?
In this post, we’ll offer a few of our favorite, tried-and-true teething comfort tips for your baby. Let’s dive in.
The Symptoms of Teething
While teething cases vary from baby to baby, the symptoms tend to be roughly the same. As a general rule, symptoms of teething include the following:
- Chewing on objects or putting things into the mouth
- Sore, tender, painful gums
- Crankiness, irritability, and crying
- Low-grade fevers reaching 99 degrees
Some babies handle teething differently than others. With this in mind, be on the lookout for any of these symptoms. They don’t always occur together.
7 Tips to Soothe Teething Pain
It can seem like there’s no relief for teething pain. Your baby is hurt, but you don’t know how to take the discomfort away. Before you head to the doctor, try these tips:
1. Rub the Baby’s Gums
Using a clean finger or a piece of clean, moistened gauze pad, rub your baby’s gums gently. The point here is not to rough up the gums. Instead, you’re simply applying gentle pressure that can ease the baby’s discomfort and provide a welcome counterpoint to the pain of the teeth coming through the gums.
2. Freeze a Teething Ring
Today, many companies make teething rings that are designed to be chilled. Once chilled, the teething ring provides cool comfort on a baby’s painful, inflamed gums. If you’d rather not purchase a special tool, you can give your baby a chilled spoon or a cold washcloth to chew on. No matter what you do, ensure that whatever you give the baby is large enough that it won’t become a choking hazard. That’s the last thing you want to add to your plate if you’re already dealing with teething pain.
3. Offer Hard Food
If your baby is eating solid foods, offer them something durable to gnaw on. Many pediatric dentists recommend peeled, chilled cucumber or carrot slices, since these provide excellent texture and counter-pressure to painful teeth. If you’re going to go this route, be sure to keep an eye on your baby to ensure they’re not accidentally swallowing bits of the snack.
4. Keep Baby’s Face Dry
Drooling is a natural side effect of teething. When the baby puts fingers, toys, or other objects in the mouth, it creates drooling. While drooling may seem innocuous enough, the moisture it creates can cause skin irritation if left unattended. With this in mind, keep a burp rag handy to wipe your baby’s face regularly. Keeping their chin, chest, and face dry will go a long way toward keeping them more comfortable.
5. Visit Your Dentist
Your baby’s dentist can often resolve excruciating teething symptoms. With this in mind, don’t hesitate to make an appointment if your baby doesn’t show signs of getting better quickly. Your dentist will evaluate your baby’s mouth to ensure all the teeth are coming in correctly and that there aren’t any underlying problems causing the pain. Your dentist will also be able to recommend some remedies to help your baby in his or her unique situation.
6. Try OTC Remedies
If your baby is cranky or in a great deal of pain, try an OTC pain reliever like acetaminophen (Tylenol and other medications) or ibuprofen (Advis, Motrin, and others). Be sure to buy children’s formulas and follow all recommended dosage information.
7. Use a Numbing Formula
Your dentist will be able to recommend an OTC numbing formula designed to be applied topically to the gums. You can also pick these salves up at your local pharmacy or drugstore without a prescription. Again, be sure to follow the recommended dosage information and apply only according to the manufacturer’s directions.
When to Call a Doctor
Concerned your baby’s teething symptoms aren’t getting any better? Contact your baby’s doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- The baby develops a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or the existing fever gets worse
- The baby seems particularly uncomfortable
- The baby is vomiting or experiencing diarrhea
- The baby is listless or depressed
While teething can generally be managed at home, there are instances when contacting a doctor is wise. You know your baby best, so go ahead and make the call when you feel it is necessary.
Caring for a Baby’s New Teeth
It’s easy to get so caught up in the trials of teething that you forget the ultimate purpose of the process itself: to produce teeth! Once your baby’s teeth have broken through the gums, how do you care for them? Here are a few smart tips to ensure proper oral hygiene for your little one for years to come:
1. Start Brushing Early
As soon as your baby’s first teeth appear, use a small brush with soft bristles to brush the little tooth nubs. Until your baby learns to spit, use just a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste – dentists recommend limiting it to about the size of a grain of rice. As the child gets older, you can increase the amount of toothpaste you use.
2. Schedule Regular Checkups
According to The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you should schedule your child’s first dental visit right after the first tooth comes through, and no later than the baby’s first birthday.
3. Model Good Dental Hygiene
Lead by example when it comes to taking good care of your teeth. As your baby becomes a toddler and sees you brushing and flossing regularly, they’ll be more likely to follow suit.
A Great Smile Starts Early
While most parents are focused on just getting through the teething process, the start of teething is the start of your baby’s journey through oral health. With this in mind, give the situation the attention it deserves and start modeling good behavior early. Everyone in your household will benefit.
We’re here to help you with your baby’s teething process. Contact our office today to book baby’s first dental appointment!
Dr. Felicity is a National Board Certified Dentist and a Longtime resident of Charleston.