An infant's toothless smile is an endearing and loveable trait; however, teeth must eventually erupt from those smooth gums. The teeth that emerge the gums are called primary teeth and when they push upward and eventually break through the gums it is called teething. During the process of pushing upward, the hard tooth press against gums that have grown increasingly tender from the pressure. This pressure can translate into discomfort and even pain in a child's sensitive mouth. Parents, particularly new parents, may wonder when their child will begin this teething process. The time that an infant starts teething varies and ultimately it comes down to each individual child. There is, however, a period during which most children are likely to start teething. This period is from the age of 4 months to 7 months. In addition, most children will have at least started teething by 12 months. It is important that parents understand how to best help their infants during this time and how to avoid some common mistakes.
Common Tips and Tricks to Help Teething Babies
Parents will find that there are plenty of useful tips and tricks that can soothe a baby's gums. These are typically trusted and simple home remedies that don't require the use of medications. Hard chilled vegetables or fruit can be helpful for children who have begun eating table food. A chilled slice of banana is an example of a gum soothing treat. Care must be taken when giving children chilled or hard food so that it does not become a choking hazard as it softens and potentially breaks. Parents may also use a clean finger to gently massage the gums or they may rub the gums with a chilled, but not frozen, spoon. If one does not feel comfortable putting a bare finger in the baby's mouth, use a damp or chilled cloth or piece of gauze instead.
Products and Medications That Help Teething Babies
One of the most common and popular products used to help soothe teething children are teething rings. These rings are chilled prior to use, but should not be frozen as the extreme coldness can injure the child. Both the coldness and the hardness of the ring will feel pleasant against the child's gums, supplying them with some relief. When buying teething rings, avoid liquid filled rings as they may begin to leak if a break occurs. The best teething rings are those that are made of rubber. The benefit of medications and ointments that are applied directly to the gums is minimal at best and is not recommended, particularly those that contain benzocaine. Benzocaine has been found to be potentially dangerous and even lethal to infants. In place of ointments or gels, parents should use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for children to help ease the pain or discomfort. Only children who are six months or older should be given ibuprofen, and, in general, medications should be used infrequently.
Potential Complications or Problems
Generally there are no real complications that are associated with teething. Most often any "complications" from teething are few, but are bothersome for the baby. They do not tend to be dangerous to the child and are more irritating and painful. One of the more common problems is an elevated temperature; however, this should be low-grade and not exceed 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If a child does have a higher temperature, seek the care of a pediatrician as this may be a sign of infection or some other problem not related to teething. Other minor problems associated with teething include a loss of appetite, a facial rash, and difficulty sleeping. Some ear irritation may also be a complication that is associated with teething although medical professionals do not associate actual ear infections with teething.
Teething Myths and Misconceptions
Historically, there have been many myths and misconceptions regarding teething. It was often associated with childhood illness and even the death of infants. One such misconception was that teething was responsible for respiratory infections, which was a belief that was held until the late 1970s. Courtesy of modern medicine and research, medical professionals no longer attribute teething to these serious and often life-threatening illnesses. Other myths regarding illness and teething are that it is responsible for a number of other problems such as diarrhea, ear infections, high fevers, and colds. While these may occur while a child is teething and may appear to be related to it, they are most often associated with other problems. Parents should watch what children put in their mouths and ensure that items given for them to chew on are kept as clean as possible. This can help avoid problems such as diarrhea, colds, and/or upset stomach. They should also seek the care of the child's pediatrician should fever and other problems arise or are persistent while a child is teething.
Teething myths and misconceptions also involve treatments. In the past, it was believed that something sweet, such as sugar or honey, could be rubbed on the nipple of a bottle or pacifier as an aid in the relief of pain. This is false, however, and will promote tooth decay at an early age if it is done continuously. Additionally, honey should never be used as it causes botulism in infants. Another belief that has been found to be untrue is the use of alcohol to aid teething infants. Parents should never apply alcohol to the gums as it can be poisonous to young bodies which are not developed enough to safely handle alcohol. Parents should instead follow safe home remedies as previously discussed.
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