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Tips for Dealing with Teething Issues

Posted on Jun 18, 2018

Rachel Dawkins, M.D.

There’s little worse than a teething baby in the middle of the night. Rachel Dawkins, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital gives parents some tips to ease the pain of teething.

How do you know when a child is teething versus them getting sick with a cold or other illness?

Every baby is different on when teeth appear. Some babies get their first teeth around 4 months and some don’t have any teeth until after their first birthday.

Teething can happen any time between 3 months and 3 years old. The first signs are often lots of drooling and babies who rubs anything they can on their gums. A teething baby can be cranky, crying, have difficulty sleeping and might be a little more irritable than usual. Some babies might have a low grade temperature less than 101 degrees Fahrenheit.

If your child is having fevers greater than 101 degrees, diarrhea or runny nose, it’s likely due to a virus and not due to teething.

What’s the best way to ease a baby’s discomfort when he or she is teething?

Give babies something they can chew on but not choke on. A firm rubber toy, a soft toothbrush, a cool ring or a cool rag are all good options. Some people massage their own fingers along the baby’s gums, which can provide comfort.

If all else fails, a dose of acetaminophen (Tylenol) can do the trick to ease pain.

Are there any things to avoid when your baby is teething?

Yes! Over-the-counter medications that contain benzocaine such as BabyOragel, Anbesol or Orabase should NOT be used for teething. The anesthetic in these products can cause a rare but serious (and sometimes deadly) blood disorder called methemoglobinemia. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked manufacturers of these products to stop marketing them for pediatric use.

The FDA also has discouraged the use of homeopathic teething tablets because of inconsistent amounts of belladonna, a poisonous plant, found in these products.

Be careful using amber teething necklaces. These necklaces pose a choking and strangulation risk. If you are using an amber necklace make sure to remove it before naps/bed.

As soon as the first tooth appears, you can start wiping the tooth off with rag or toothbrush. For kids younger than 3 years old, parents should brush their child’s teeth twice a day with a very small smear of fluoride toothpaste. It’s important to not send the child to bed with a bottle of formula, milk or juice as this can cause decay.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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