Helping baby with teething pain

There is no knowing when the first tooth is going to appear, or if your baby will be an easy teether or in misery non-stop. Photo: Daniel Schwen

SILVER SPRING, MD, March 1, 2012 – Teething is a mysterious thing that babies go through. There is no knowing when the first tooth is going to appear, or if your baby will be an easy teether or in misery non-stop until the offending tooth has popped through the gum. 

Sure, there are approximate timetables for when each tooth will emerge, but while general wisdom says the first tooth will arrive at 6 months, there is plenty of evidence to say that isn’t always the case.  In fact, a study published in Pediatrics in April of 2000 suggests that the most of the symptoms associated with teething were not exclusive to teething and that “no symptom cluster could reliably predict the imminent emergence of a tooth.”

The American Dental Association has a helpful chart that lists the approximate time when each set of teeth will emerge, but these are statistical averages.  Some babies go months past the half-year mark before that first tooth shows up, only to arrive with 4 others at the same time.  Sometimes the tooth arrives early.  

In rare cases, a baby can be born with a tooth. But regardless of when that first tooth shows up and whether your child is an easy teether or a bad teether, there will be tearful nights, fussiness, drool, and any of a number of other “problems” that you will attribute to teething…whether it is truly the cause or not.

There are many ways to help sooth a teething baby, some are more advised than others. We’ve all heard stories from older relatives or friends about rubbing a dab of whiskey on the baby’s gums. But, generally, giving babies alcohol – even a dab – isn’t considered the best of ideas. Fortunately, there are many other options out there.

There are many different products on the market designed to ease teething pain. Chewable toys are helpful to have around. A nice advantage to have teething toys that your child actually enjoy using is that he are more likely to have the toy in his mouth than his thumb or fingers, or in some cases, foot.

They come in a range of sizes, styles, and designs. Everything from water-filled rubber pretzels that can be chilled in the refrigerator to loops of rubber coated plastic beads.  

Sophie the giraffe, made by Vulli, is a popular teething toy that has been around for over 50 years, and its website boasts celebrity status, with picture of stars and their Sophie-toating children. The long neck does make it easy to grab, and children genuinely do seem to enjoy this toy. 

Sophie the Giraffe hasn’t changed since 1961, and she’s still just as popular today. Click to enlarge.

Rubber pacifiers also make good teethers.  Sure, all pacifiers have rubber bulbs that go in the mouth, but there are some that are all rubber.  These are great because the baby can manipulate the pacifier and chew on any part of it safely.

In another attempt to sooth baby’s discomfort, brands like Orajel and Hyland’s have created mouth numbing products for baby.  There are generally 2 types: gels to be rubbed on the gums and tablets that dissolve in the mouth. 

A word of caution regarding these products, both the Hyland’s Teething Tablets and the standard Baby Orajel have had safety warnings issued about them in the past.  In 2009 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a recall on the Hyland’s teething tablets in October of 2010. 

The products contains Belladona, which can be toxic in large doses and the FDA found that there was too much variation in the amount contained in each individual tablet.  The company recalled their products, corrected the problem, and as of August 2011 has begun distributing again. 

In April of 2011, the FDA issued an alert regarding Baby Orajel.  The agency warns that benzocaine, the main ingredient in Baby Orajel and many other over-the-counter gum-pain relievers, is associated with a condition called methemoglobinemia. 

This condition greatly reduces the amount of oxygen being carried through the blood stream which can result in potentially life-threatening side effects. The warning advises not to use benzocaine products on children under the age of 2. Orajel does make another baby-safe line called Baby Orajel Naturals. The “Naturals” refers to the fact that these products do not use benzocaine, but rather clove oil.

They make a “Naturals” gel and a teething tablet. However, consult your doctor before giving your baby any over-the-counter treatments.

Baby Orajel Naturals line does not contain benzoine.

Earth’s Best makes teething biscuits.  These are designed for a older baby, 9 months or older, and have the added benefit of providing some nutrition.  They come in barley or wheat, made from organic products, and contain none of the numbing products of the others.  They are simply a hard biscuit for babies to chew on just like they would a toy.

In your efforts to provide relief for your little one, the refrigerator – and freezer - is an invaluable asset.  A chilled wet washcloth can help sooth gums, as can chilled teething rings. 

If you are breastfeeding and have expressed breast milk, freeze some of it and then serve it in a bottle as a slushy.  The cold will ease his gums, and the thicker consistency will make it last longer as it is harder to draw through the hole in the nipple.

Chamomile tea is another remedy that has been long used.  The tea is a well known sedative, calming even adults.  Allowing your baby to chew on a washcloth soaked in the tea may reduce irritability and help him sleep.  Chamomile is also an ingredient in both the Baby Orajel Naturals and the Hyland’s Baby teething tablets.

Long used in the Baltic regions as a teething remedy, amber necklaces were given to babies to chew on. Although, putting a necklace on a baby can pose a potential chocking hazard. Not only could the beads come loose if the necklace broke, but the chord could become twisted or caught on something and seriously injure your child. 

However, since a teething baby puts everything in his mouth, and loves grabbing at mom’s jewelry, there are actually a few clever companies that have created jewelry for mom that doubles a teether for baby.  Chewable Jewels and Smart Mom Jewelry, offer a selection of FDA approved jewelry that is designed to both be stylish and drool covered. Necklaces and bracelets are the standard here.

Many parents for ages have reported a fever while teething.  While the American Academy of Pediatrics says that teething may cause a low-grade fever (under 101° F), it makes sense that little viruses and infections commonly crop while during teething.  Babies put everything from their germy hands to the straps on the car seat to their socks into their mouths.  It’s no wonder that they pick up little infections. 

Most often these are mild and do not require treatment.   

However, consult your doctor if your child develops either a fever or diarrhea to rule out any potential infection.

Teething can be a rough phase, for both babies and parents. Do what you can to make your baby feel more comfortable. That might mean one or more of the above remedies, or it may mean more time snuggling. Just remember, it is a phase, and when you make it through, your little one will be ready for a whole new world of textures and tastes that come with being able to chew.


Follow Brighid on Twitter at @BrighidMoret and receive updates on when new columns post on Facebook. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.


This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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