Help! My Child is Teething!

Tooth Character

Baby’s first tooth is a momentous milestone. It is a sign that your baby is growing. Soon you will be able to begin introducing solid foods. But first you both have to survive the teething process!

When Teething Begins

The average child will begin teething around the age of six months.  However, some kids are born with teeth; some begin the process at 3 months; others don’t see the first tooth until the first birthday. Kids may experience a lot of discomfort, letting their parents know something is amiss.  Others are surprised to discover that the first tooth has erupted without warning.  Consider yourself and your child fortunate if he or she goes through the teething process with no discomfort!  The teething process usually is done around the age of 3.

How Many Teeth Can We Expect?

Considering how rough teething can be. It is no wonder that new parents want to know how many times they (and their child) are going to have to go through the process. On average, your child will have 20 primary teeth, about a dozen less than permanent ones.  But don’t panic!  Teeth erupt in pairs and not every tooth is going to cause discomfort. Usually just the first few and the molars are the most uncomfortable.

What Can We Expect?

Every parent has heard the horror stories of babies that scream all night or spike high fevers when teething.  You may notice your child drooling more than usual and chewing on toys, fingers, or things they normally would not.  Others can become irritable, develop rashes, pull on their ears, spike a fever, or even appear as if they have a cold.  Diarrhea and coughing have also been reported.  Although you should never dismiss these symptoms, if your child’s gums seem red and irritated even though they have been getting brushed routinely, the odds are good that your child is not sick; they’re simply working on getting a tooth.

What Should We Do?

Parents feel helpless when their child isn’t feeling well. Add loss of sleep to these feelings and teething can become a long process for all to endure.  Here are a few tips for getting through the experience:

  • Offer your child some soothing items.  A cool, damp wash cloth is usually comforting for a teething child to chew on.  Teething rings may also help to ease the discomfort of the teething process.  Make sure this is not too cold or frozen because this can further irritate the child’s gums.  Think about Ralphie’s tongue getting stuck to the flag pole in “A Christmas Story.”  Instead of freezing it, place the teething ring in the back of the refrigerator instead.
  • Use Children’s Tylenol or Ibuprofen as needed.  If your child is in pain, or develops a low grade fever, an over-the-counter pain reliever may help.
  • Offer cold drinks and food.  If your child is old enough to eat ice cream, cold yogurt, or cold applesauce, these foods can help. Cold foods and drinks can soothe irritated gums.
  • Offer counter pressure. Some babies respond quite well to parents firmly rubbing irritated gums. Others may be too uncomfortable. 

Helping a child deal with the pain and discomfort of teething isn’t always easy and is usually a trial and error experience.  Try several different methods of relief until you find what works best for your little teether.