Jennifer Newton Reents
Turn to your freezer
Dr Jeffrey Blum, associate professor of clinical pediatric dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania in Wynnewood and a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry, says he recommends parents give their babies something cold to chew on to soothe their gums. "An ice-cold carrot, big enough so it won't lodge in their throat, a cold spoon to hold in their mouth," he says.
You may also want to try a teething gel with 10 percent benzocaine, a numbing medication. Blum says many of these products taste good and provide a gum-cooling effect.
Mom Heather Rivlin of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, shares one idea she uses to help her son when he is cutting teeth. "Take a washcloth and fold it in a triangle and then into a smaller triangle," she says. "Dip one corner in water and place in the freezer. The washcloth is easy to hold for little hands and they can chew on the cold corner. The washcloth's rough texture makes it a good choice for sore gums."
How do I know my baby is teething?
"Generally what we see is kids putting their fingers in their mouths, drooling and showing real irritability -- screaming, with fingers in their mouth -- in the middle of the night," Blum says. "It can start as early as four months old, and can go until age 10 [or] 11."
Along with irritability and lack of appetite, some parents believe their children run a low grade fever when they teethe, though Dr Jane Forester, an osteopathic physician, says there is no evidence that a fever is associated with teething and that if your child has a fever, to contact your doctor. Blum also says he doesn't associate fever with teething, but says there may be a mild elevation of temperature if there is a tooth that is just ready to cut through the tissue. "If that is the case, I don't hesitate to recommend [acetaminophen] to treat both the pain and the fever," he says. "But I would stop the [acetaminophen] just as soon as the fever went away."
For pain, Forester recommends, when all else fails, parents use either acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) but only after checking with your pediatrician. For a natural remedy, she recommends a recipe consisting of one teaspoon of clove oil mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. After mixing, she says to apply it directly to your baby's gums with your clean finger.
Teething biscuits may also be an alternative and various stores sell herbal teething remedies you may want to try, but check with your doctor before doing so. "It may seem when they are going through this that all they want to do is cry and fuss but I have learned that the best way to stop the flowing tears is a good snuggle with your suffering little one," says mom Deanna Peace of Sarasota, Florida.
Another way to help your baby through this tough time is to simply distract him! Play with your baby frequently and get his mind off his mouth! The rewards will be great, and before you know it, that toothless grin will instead be showing off a pearly white or two!