Teething is a big milestone in an infant’s life where baby teeth emerge from the gums. This phenomenon typically begins in most children between 4-7 months old. However, the age at which this occurs differs among children, so do not be overly alarmed if your child starts teething later. For most babies, teething does not pose too much of a discomfort. Like adults, however, babies all have different thresholds of pain and discomfort, and some children can become extremely uncomfortable and irritable.
Generally, the middle lower teeth of the baby will erupt first, followed by the middle upper teeth in a few months.
Signs & Symptoms
- Drooling, which can cause a rash on their face and chest
- Chewing on objects (or people)
- Red, swollen gums
- Increased fussing
- Rubbing and pulling on the ear
When to Seek Medication Attention
Because children at this age cannot express themselves eloquently, it might be difficult for parents to identify the root cause of their discomfort. Hence, caution should be exercised, as other conditions can be erroneously blamed on teething. See a doctor:
- If the child mounts a fever of above 38oC. This might be due to another condition other than teething.
- If the child is pulling on his/her ear but you do not see the any gum swelling. This could be a sign of an ear infection
- If there are any other symptoms such as a skin rash or mouth sores
Try using a rubber teething ring or baby tooth wipes that have been put in the refrigerator. Putting it in the freezer can make it too hard, and this can hurt your baby’s gums. Teething rusks can also help to soothe the child. Rubbing a cool, clean finger on your baby’s gums would help too.
If your baby is old enough for food and water, a cold bottle or cold food will feel soothing on his/her sore gums.
Clean your baby’s new teeth with a soft toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste.
Paracetamol is available as oral syrup for the relief of pain. This medication is dosed according to weight, so get a pharmacist or doctor to calculate the dosage for you if you are unsure. Always follow instructions carefully as overdose can lead to liver dysfunction. Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that brings down swelling and alleviates pain. Administer after food to prevent stomach discomfort. Pain medications are only to be used on an as-needed basis.
Lidocaine, benzocaine and choline salicylate teething gel are traditionally used to bring your child some short term relief. Apply a small quantity of the teething gel onto a clean finger and rub into the gums. Because babies will swallow the medication, exercise extreme caution and take care to follow the manufacturer instructions carefully to prevent an overdose. Benzocaine and lignocaine teething gels have also been linked to dangerous side effects such as confusion, seizures and brain damage. Minimise the use of medicated teething gels to the area where the new tooth is erupting, and only on occasions when lifestyle modifications are not sufficient to bring your child relief. It is always safer to check with a healthcare professional if in doubt.