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October 02, 2016
Category: Children
Tags: Teething  

Teething is a painful process for parents and baby.   During teething, there was a notable increase in: biting, drooling, gum rubbing, sucking, 
irritability, wakefulness, ear rubbing, facial rash, decreased appetite and a mild temperature.  No one knows why teething babies produce all that saliva, but the theory is that the increase of muscle movement in the mouth during this teething period simulates chewing, which activates the salivary glands. (The excess drooling can in turn cause a rash around the mouth.) Biting and gum rubbing are the baby's efforts to relieve pressure in the gums.

While all these symptoms tend to crop up in the few days before and after a tooth's emergence from the gums, the process of developing teeth starts much earlier.

In-utero roots: Around the second trimester of pregnancy, tooth buds begin to form under the gums in your baby's mouth. Eventually, the roots begin to grow, forcing the crown up.  The tooth puts pressure on the tissues above it, and they slowly begin to break down.  The tissue gets thinner and thinner until it breaks and the tooth pops through.

Top and bottom debut: The first teeth to pop up are usually the two bottom front teeth (central incisors), followed by the four upper teeth (central and lateral incisors). Because these are thinner with a knifelike edge, they often slide through fairly easily.

Molar mayhem: But that's just the calm before the storm: Around baby's first birthday, the first molars will start to arrive in the back of the mouth; then come the canines (the pointed teeth between the molars and incisors); and then around age 2, the second molars, behind the first set.  The molars are often much more painful because they are a big, fat, broad-surfaced tooth.  Those are the ones where you tend to see bulging gums.  

There are several things you can do to ease the pain.

Before They Start Teething

Begin a regimen of massaging and cleaning the baby's gums as soon as they are born. Whether you breast- or bottlefeed, clean their mouth out after feedings whenever possible.  Using a clean piece of gauze or a washcloth, rub your finger along the gum pads, cleaning out any leftover milk.

If you continue this through the teething stage, you'll accomplish two things: First of all, your baby will be used to having something stuck in his mouth after meals, which will make toothbrushing easier down the road. Second, the pressure from the massage will make teething just a little less painful.

The pressure of the tooth coming in from below is countered by the pressure from the massaging on the top.  It feels good, and it helps break down the gum tissues slowly.

Teething Rings: Yes or No?

Some babies and toddlers instinctively soothe themselves by grabbing anything within reach and biting on it, but biting on hard toys can sometimes damage incoming teeth. As an alternative, offer your baby a chilled (not frozen) plastic teething ring and check it every day to make sure she hasn't bitten through. Also, if your child is attached to the pacifier, don't take it away now. They find comfort from the pacifier, and can use it to massage the gums. 

Sucking on a wet, cold washcloth may help as well. Some parents have suggested frozen, slushy applesauce, chilled plums or apricots, popsicles, teething biscuits, and mini-bagels.

For kids who eat solid foods, try freezing a banana, cutting off a small slice, and wrapping it in a washcloth.  The cold helps numb the gums and ease the pain, and the hardness helps break down the gum tissue. Just make sure the banana doesn't get loose from the washcloth. On its own, the fruit is a choking hazard.

Bedtime Remedies

At nighttime, when teething babies tend to be crankiest, don't be afraid to give them infant Tylenol to help them sleep through the night.  Topical treatments can be helpful also, but be careful to put only the tiniest dab right on the site of the pain.  If you use too much, a child can swallow it and numb his throat.  And despite what your grandmother or babysitter may tell you, never dab whiskey on a baby's gums. Even a small amount can sedate the child, which could be dangerous.

You may suffer a lot of sleepless nights while your baby works on producing those choppers, but when they smile that huge ear-to-ear grin and say "cheese!" it will all be worthwhile.

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