A Teething Survival Guide

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The appearance of your baby’s first precious pearly whites can be hard on both of you, but you can do quite a few things to make teething easier.

You notice two tiny, white nubs—lower incisors, the bottom front teeth—beginning to emerge from your 5-month-old baby’s lower gums. She has reached another milestone in her physical development: teething.

Your little one is right on schedule. In most babies, teeth begin appearing between 4 and 7 months of age. Incisors erupt first, followed by molars and canines. Some children experience smooth sailing through this rite of passage. For others, however, the journey is rougher, and judging by your baby’s recent occasional crankiness and fitful sleeping, she falls into this category. Not to worry—her symptoms are normal. Here’s how to help:

  • Provide an appropriate chewing outlet. The edge of the coffee table, the dog’s toy rings, your finger—you name it, and your baby is trying to chew it to ease sore gums. Provide a safe, hygienic and less painful (for you) alternative, such as a lightly frozen washcloth or a cold, solid rubber teething ring.
  • Stem the tide. You may notice your little one drooling much more than normal during teething. If you allow her chin to stay damp constantly, a rash may form, so keep it dry as much as possible.
  • Use a gentle touch. Softly massaging your little one’s gums with a clean finger may help relieve discomfort.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using over-the-counter pain relievers to ease teething irritation, as they are generally ineffective and may be harmful. Remember, infrequent irritability is to be expected with teething, but nonstop fussiness and misery are not. If your child is having a particularly tough time with teething, consult your pediatrician. Eventually, the trials of teething will pass, and by age 3 years, your child should have a full set of teeth.

Cleaning Little Chompers

Why is it so important to begin caring for baby teeth as soon as they appear? Early dental hygiene sets the stage for a healthy mouth and may prevent oral problems that could affect your child for the rest of his life.

One day, your child will be primarily responsible for his own oral hygiene, but right now, caring for his mouth is on you. If he hasn’t started teething, wipe his gums daily with a washcloth to keep them clean. When the first tooth appears, start brushing with a children’s toothbrush twice daily using a small drop of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure your little one doesn’t swallow the toothpaste. When two teeth appear side by side, gently floss daily. Before your child turns 1 year old, take him to the dentist for his first checkup.

Did You Know?

> Attempting to soothe teething children by rubbing prescription and over-the-counter numbing agents, such as lidocaine and benzocaine, on their gums can endanger their health, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

> Overuse of a bottle after your baby’s teeth begin appearing can put her at risk for bottle mouth, a condition that occurs when sugar in liquids sticks to the teeth, leading to decay or discoloration.

> Rarely, teething may cause a fever of 101 degrees Fahrenheit or less, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, but it does not cause high fever or diarrhea.

Schedule doctor visits for your child online at EvanstonAnytime.com! Day or night, schedule appointments for next day and beyond with pediatricians Alan Brown, M.D., or Bird Gilmartin, M.D., here.

Drs. Brown and Gilmartin are members of the medical staff at Evanston Regional Hospital.