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What Are the Signs of Baby Teething and How Can I Help My Baby Get Though the Process?
As a dentist and mom, I get a lot of questions about baby teething both at the office and in my own circle of friends. As a first-time parent, many areas of parenting and childcare seem like such a mystery. We struggle our best through trial and error and constantly ask ourselves if the question or problem really warrants a trip to the pediatrician. Do we want to spend a co-pay or “wait it out” and see if the problem resolves itself?
Well, my hope is that I can provide you with some help in this area of child rearing. Babies go through so many changes so quickly, baby teething can cause difficulties that feel like an eternity! Just when your bundle is finally sleeping through the night and you’re settling into the groove of being a new parent, the process throws you a new curve ball. Around 6-7 months, you may find that your baby acquires some strange behavior and not all of it is pleasant!
Generally, the process of baby teeth starts at 3-4 months, despite the fact that a tooth may not appear for a few months. The labial teeth begin their ascent into the mouth during this time and parents may notice some of the following behaviors in their baby: Excessive drooling, unpleasantness, biting and putting objects in the mouth, coughing or cold, cheek or ear pulling and unfortunately , night awakening! While all of these can be signs of a baby tooth, they can also be signs of other problems, so when in doubt, don’t be afraid to call your pediatrician – that’s what they’re there for!
As these new baby teeth come in, they usually cause a lot of pressure and discomfort in the gums. This process can cause restlessness and irritability and even cause a baby to wake up at night in a cranky mood. Babies often try to relieve this pressure during the day by chewing on any object they can fit in their mouth, including their hands. In addition, this magnificent appearance of teeth greatly stimulates saliva flow, causing a baby to drool excessively. All these habits can cause other related problems for baby. Excessive drooling during baby teething can cause a rash on the chin and also stimulate the coughing and gag reflex. They may also experience discomfort that is related to the ears or cheeks. The rashes are usually not a problem unless you find that the rash causes pain, has open sores or bleeding. If this happens, see your pediatrician for medicated creams to help heal the area and make the baby comfortable again.
While ear and cheek pulling can be a sign or a baby tooth, it can also be a sign of an ear infection. My kids have had their fair share of ear infections and they can be such a frustrating experience. I noticed that ear and cheek pulling from a baby tooth is quite rare. So, my suggestion would be that if you see this behavior, especially if accompanied by a fever, get your child evaluated by the pediatrician. Ear infections can be a very painful experience with potential complications and should not be “expected.”
The drool can also cause loose or runny bowels, but generally not diarrhea. If your baby has diarrhea that lasts more than a day, call your pediatrician. As a baby tries to relieve pressure by putting an object and fingers in their mouth, they can unfortunately introduce unwanted germs into their bodies. So, you can notice and increase in colds or diseases that can cause mild fevers. Fevers are not likely to be from teething directly, but are thought to be from the “bugs” that babies expose themselves to while going through the baby teething process.
So, how can you help your precious baby through this difficult time, which can last months? Baby teethers and toys or cold foods are a good start. Make sure they are foods that your baby can usually eat without choking! You can also gently massage the gums with your own fingers, but please be sure to wash your hands first! Baby Orajel can be used, however, as a dentist I can tell you that unless you completely dry the gum area before applying, it really won’t work – you’ll just get a bad taste and a different tongue! So, if you can dry the area well, and your pediatrician has given you the recommendation to use it, then see if it works for your baby. Baby Tylenol or acetaminophen is another great option when baby is having a really hard time during baby teething. However, before giving your baby any medicine, always consult your pediatrician and make sure you are giving the right dose for your child.
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