Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Teething Blues

Teething is one of the major sources of pain for both parent and infant. For the baby the pain is physical of course but for the parent it can be an emotionally taxing experience especially if the first tooth is slow to emerge. Parents who have gone through this know what occurs; constant drooling, the baby gets irritable and the parents are left scrounging around the house looking for whatever remedy helps to alleviate the itching pain felt in the swollen gums.

Usually the first tooth comes in at around the seventh month for the infant, though it's not unheard of for it to grow out as early as the third month. This first tooth is located in the bottom jaw in the front, later the other front teeth debut with the molars coming out last.

Aside from the steady drooling that makes the infant's mouth seem like a waterfall, there are other symptoms of teething. The other two big ones are pain and irritability. The pain comes from the inflamed gums that are reacting to the forming teeth and the discomfort felt by infants makes them rather cranky. This is why they will refuse to eat or nurse and wake up during the night. But can they be blamed? Of course not, try dealing with constant pain and it's easy to see why babies become so fussy during this period. Sometimes rashes appear near the mouth due to the excess saliva; this can be alleviated by wiping away the drool and trying to keep the face dry. It also helps to change clothing as well since they easily get drenched from the drooling. Diarrhea and mild fever are other symptoms to look out for but don't be quick to brush these occurrences as teething. It's best to check with a pediatrician. On a related note, babies may also pull at their ears or rub their cheeks during teething. But this could also be a symptom of an ear infection, so again check with a pediatrician first.

Also some babies feel little discomfort from the teething process while others have a prolonged, painful experience that can keep the baby and the parents up at night. According to our child's pediatrician and other sources, for some babies, the teeth will first emerge as late as eighteen months. As for the reason for the earliness or lateness of teeth emerging, many feel that heredity is the culprit. In any case, that reason is of small comfort for the family whose infant is late and in constant pain.

It may be hard for these anguished parents to hear this but the best thing to do in case the teeth haven't shown up yet is to hang in there, they'll eventually emerge. Believe me this was and is still difficult to hear since our infant is nearly ten months old, has been drooling everyday since the fourth month and that first tooth is nowhere in sight. However, there are many temporary remedies that provide some degree of comfort and alleviate the irritated gums.

One of the easiest is massaging the gums and parents will see their children doing just that by themselves when they stick their tiny fingers in their mouths and gnaw on them. Parents can help out by gently massaging their infants' gums with clean fingers. The counter pressure soothes the itching sensation they feel which can also be dealt with by teething rings or toys.
There are all kinds to choose from in the market. The best ones are the soft rubber ones with raised bumps. Some have water inside of them that allow parents to freeze them but be careful, the freezing make the rings or toys very hard and can make for a painful chewing experience. But the cold sensation does help so what I've done with this ring is to run water over it after taking it out of the freezer to help thaw it out and making it softer. Then I hold the ring over my infant's mouth and gently put it in and out of the mouth to gradually acclimate my child to the cold. There is one other drawback to the water-filled teethers; I've seen recalls in stores for some models due to bacteria found in them, so make sure the ones bought are safe.

Parents can also use frozen foods but should monitor their children to prevent choking and to clean up messes. This mess happens when babies are given teething biscuits. They like the taste and revel in gumming the biscuit but wet crumbs are then dispersed all over the place; face, hair, hands, clothes, etc. So be ready with the wet wipe. Cold drinks like water or juices are good alternatives since they help replenish liquids lost from the non-stop drooling.

Also consider using over-the-counter topical aids, they're safe and provide temporary respite from the pain. Orajel for babies is fine but it takes a while for the baby to get used to it. I use that and homeopathic teething pellets called Humphreys. They're really tiny pills that contain chamomile and are fruit flavored, but they may be hard to find in the local pharmacy, so check around. The pellets calm down my child but often I wonder if it's due to the flavoring, but they seem to do the trick, which is why I use them. Baby acetaminophen a.k.a Tylenol works as well but check with a pediatrician about the right dosage.

Until that first tooth finally comes in, take heart in the knowledge that this teething phase will pass as does everything else and enjoy those beautiful toothless grins for they'll be gone soon enough. - - J.L. Soto

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