Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Teething in Older Children

By Christina VanGinkel

Once your child is past the initial stages of teething and has several shiny whites in, you may feel as if your major struggles dealing with a teething infant are over. You may have to think again. Even if they are no longer making everyone around them aware of their teething efforts, it is important as a parent or caregiver to recognize when an older infant or toddler is getting in new teeth.

Before the first tooth even arrives, you should be gently brushing baby's gums, and as soon as teeth have arrived, brushing those. Use these daily opportunities to take notice if new ones are arriving and offer continued support for pain at these times, even if each addition is not as obvious as the early ones. Continue to offer things such as teething rings and my favorite soother, Popsicles. If your toddler is comfortable eating solids, teething biscuits may also be an option. Over the counter products are also available and may be just the thing to soothe an otherwise irritable child, but you must be alert for any allergic reaction that an infant or toddler may have. While not common, they can and do occur from the ingredients often used in these numbing formulas.

Sometimes, in older children, instead of swollen gums, what you may notice is a lack of interest in eating, irritability, and trouble sleeping. While you should be sure to rule out any other factors that may be causing these issues, be sure to consider teething.

Be alert to older children chewing on things that may be unsafe. Something as simple as a pacifier can become a choking hazard when a toddler with a few teeth in his or her mouth chews the rubber front off while trying to soothe their aching gums. Electrical cords, furniture, the family pet (No joke!); all can become targets for toddlers dealing with mouth pain. If your child is biting, before dealing out punishment, peek and see if they are biting because they are frustrated with pain. While biting is never acceptable, you do need to determine if teething is the cause, so you can help them while you explain to them that it is not ok to bite, no matter how much they hurt. If they are too young to understand, then you need to be even more vigilant in helping them eradicate their pain.

Teething is an unpleasant fact, but that does not mean that your life and others around baby must be just as miserable. If your child is miserable, consider every option available to you. Talk to your baby's pediatrician to see if he or she has any suggestions, ask friends and family how they dealt with their children when they were teething. Be sure not to use any old remedies that may harm an infant or toddler though. When one of my kids was younger, a friend told me to rub alcohol on their gums; thankfully, I was smart enough not to do this, as alcohol in even small amounts can harm a child.

Take heart and know that eventually the teething will stop, sort of. My son is almost thirteen and is currently getting in several molars!

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