As I discussed in my first post in this teething series (click here if you missed it), teething is a normal part of development, and there are no “absolute” symptoms of teething that every child will experience. But for the purposes of this article, let’s say you can see the telltale swelling on your little one’s gum line, they’ve started drooling and trying to gnaw through every object in sight, and, therefore, you feel pretty sure that one of those pearly whites is about ready to come bursting through. Although I know that teething advice is a dime a dozen and everybody has their “foolproof remedy”, bear with me as I share some sound advice as a pediatrician and as a mommy with 3 kiddos-worth of experience with how to deal with the emergence of first teeth.
The first thing to have in your teething arsenal are soft teething toys or teething rings. One of my favorite toys that we purchased for Mr. L (our youngest son) is this teething toy from Bright Stars. It’s designed with little “legs” that are made to simulate baby’s fingers (which is probably their typical teething “toy” of choice), it’s quite choke-proof, and it’s made of a material that’s hardy and is easy to clean. If you are using those more classic teething rings with a coolable liquid inside,do a quick check to make sure there are no holes in the plastic or latex containing the liquid, especially the longer your child is chewing on them. And while cooling them down helps to soothe the gums, you will want to keep these in the refrigerator rather than the freezer as hard, frozen objects can actually be painful and damage the gums of infants. Finally, make sure to keep teething rings out of the dishwasher or boiling water unless instructed to do so on the package as this could cause the outer plastic or latex to degrade and could lead to the liquid inside leaking out.
While wearing all that drool from your teething child is not so high fashion, there are many teething necklaces and bracelets for moms to wear these days that are. What a wonderful idea that, no doubt, an innovative mommy came up with! These wearable teething pieces are usually made from food-grade silicone (similar to those great silicone bakeware items you may have in your kitchen) and are very pliable, safe, cleanable and colorful - perfect for attracting even the most fashionable of little teethers. Gumeez (click here to check them out) is the brand that I purchased, and not only has Mr. L loved having this to chew on, but it really works as a great outfit accent for mommy as well!
My next recommendation is to take a baby washcloth, get it wet with water, put it in the refrigerator for some time, and then let your infant gnaw away. They might get a bit wet, but the cool texture will likely feel pretty good on those sore gums. You can also take your finger, dip it in cold water, and then massage their gum line. Again, probably feels pretty good on those slightly swollen gums.
Finally, should medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen be used for perceived teething pain? This is a tough one as I never recommend giving medications to infants or children unless really needed. If your child seems uncomfortable and you can see a swollen gumline, I think giving a single dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen before bed can be ok to allow them some relief so they can get their sleep. However, this should be the exception and not the rule as once again, teething will be happening for a long period of time.
Ok, so what about all of those other recommendations out there for teething? I do not recommend teething gels such as Orajel, and actually, the FDA issued a warning about these products not long ago (click here to read the warning). These gels contain benzocaine which can be absorbed through the the gum line, and in rare instances, lead to something called methemoglobinemia. This will cause the blood to not have as much oxygen available as it should, and can lead to low oxygen levels, breathing difficulties and a bluish color to the skin. Also, if large amounts of these gels are ingested (because let’s face it, all of that drool will probably wash off a lot of the gel which will then get swallowed), the benzocaine gel may numb the throat rather than the gums. Again, not something you want to happen in your infant.
When it comes to teething biscuits or cookies, proceed with great caution and supervision. While these foods are supposed to be very hard and not break into pieces, there is only so much drool that a biscuit or cookie can take before it becomes soft, pliable, and starts to break off. So while I have used these with my kids, treat them just like first foods and keep a close eye on your baby to make sure they don’t choke.
As I said before, children will be “teething” on and off for the better part of the first several years of life, so finding a “remedy” that works for them is important not only to help your little one to feel better, but for you to maintain your sanity as well. If you have had great success with any other teething remedies or have questions about other options for teething you may have heard about, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below on this article so I can look into them and respond. Stay tuned for the final installment in this teething series where I will be discussing my thoughts on the most recent trend in teething…baltic amber teething necklaces.