The stress that comes with teething can affect kids and parents alike, and understanding a few simple soothing techniques could make a big difference for everyone during this transition. Most teething infants don't experience more discomfort than can be eased by a mother's touch. Something as simple as holding and rocking can usually put everyone at ease.
Because the desire to chew is so great during teething, a parent can press her finger against the gums and provide the desired counter pressure and alleviate the pain. Another popular way to occupy gnawing mouths is by using a teething ring, a toy designed specifically for teething babies. Teething rings come in all shapes and sizes and are usually made of sturdy rubber that can withstand the abuse of an aggravated toddler.
One common variation is teething rings that are filled with water and can be refrigerated. Just like applying ice to any wound, a chilled teething ring offers additional comfort for sore gums. Ice cubes are also a popular remedy among parents, but represent a significant choking hazard. One way to mitigate the risk of using an ice cube is by sealing it in a plastic bag then wrapping the bag in a washcloth. The baby can suck on the washcloth without the risk of swallowing the ice cube, but you'll still need to keep an eye out in case the bag comes loose from the washcloth. Along these lines, cold food such as applesauce or yogurt can also help alleviate some of the discomfort.
For persistent pain, there are also over-the-counter teething medications available. Teething gels are topical anesthetics that are applied directly to the gums and work on contact. While they can be effective, it's important to use these sparingly. Because the symptoms associated with teething could also represent any number of other conditions, teething gels can be overused and for this reason some pediatricians are hesitant to recommend them at all. Infant ibuprofen, because it's an anti-inflammatory, can also be used to alleviate some of the pain of swollen and irritated gums [source: Greene]. Always check with your pediatrician before administering any medications.
For an alternative solution, clove oil is a natural anesthetic that some dentists have used to treat toothaches for years. Clove oil should not be given to infants under 6 months old, and it needs to be diluted for babies and toddlers [sources: Medline Plus, Pitman]. The combination of the eugenol in the clove oil and the massaging of the gums can be very soothing for a teething baby. Some also recommend pure vanilla extract, which naturally has a calming effect and may create a comforting, warming sensation [source: Nature Moms].
Learn even more about teething and how to deal with it by visiting the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Dental Association. "Oral Health Topics A-Z: Teething." (February 5, 2010)http://www.ada.org/public/topics/teething.asp
- Cohen, Marisa. "Your Baby's Teething Timeline." American Baby. (February 5, 2010)http://www.parents.com/baby/health/baby-teeth/baby-teething-timeline/
- Gorfinkle, Kenneth. "Soothing Your Child's Pain: From Teething and Tummy Aches to Acute Illnesses and Injuries--How to Understand the Causes and Ease the Hurt." NTC Contemporary, 1998.
- Greene, Alan. "Teething Pain." (February 11, 2010)http://www.drgreene.com/qa/teething-pain?page=2
- KidsHealth. "The Teething Process" (February 2, 2010)http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_newborn/common/teething.html
- Medline Plus. "Clove (Eugenia aromatic) and clove oil (eugenol)." U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-clove.html
- Nature Moms. "Natural Teething Remedies for Babies." (February 5, 2010).http://www.naturemoms.com/natural-teething-remedies.html
- O'Shea, Molly. "Teething Myths and Reality." Birmingham Pediatrics & Wellness Center. (February 2, 2010)http://www.birminghampediatrics.com/index.php?option=com_myblog&show=Teething-myths-and-reality.html&Itemid=71
- Pitman, Teresa. "Toddler Teething." Today's Parent. (February 10, 2010). http://www.todaysparent.com/toddler/behaviordevelopment/article.jsp?content=931505&page=1
- University of Maryland Medical Center. "Natal Teeth -- Overview." (February 7, 2010)http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/003268.htm