When a four- to six-month-old baby gets a little cranky, people often assume it's because he or she is teething. As a parent, it can be difficult to see your little one upset, so you'll probably want to give him something to soothe swollen gums and ease the discomfort. Over the years, people have developed plenty of teething remedies. Although some of those remedies do help baby's gums, others can do more harm than good. Here are the remedies that are best left behind and which ones can indeed help.
Some teething remedies have been embraced by celebrities, but not by doctors. Flipping through a gossip magazine, for example, might show you some babies of the rich and famous wearing amber bead teething necklaces. The amber is thought to soothe babies' discomfort thanks to a pain-relieving substance activated by their body heat. But generally, there's little evidence to support this belief. Beyond providing little additional benefit to a teething child, these necklaces also present a choking hazard if one of the beads breaks off and a strangling hazard as well.
Teething gels containing ingredients that numb the gums can seem like a great way to help a baby cope with pain. But the ingredients in those gels, namely benzocaine, can be bad news for little ones. Health 24 advises parents to avoid using gels or other topical products that contain benzocaine on children under the age of two. This local anesthetic can be harmful to tots in two ways: First, the gel numbs inside of the mouth, which can make it difficult for a child to swallow. Secondly – and much less commonly – it can cause methemoglobinemia, a condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood. If your baby does seem to be dealing with a lot of pain while teething, talk to the doctor or dentist about giving him or her a baby-sized dose of a safer pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
A firm ring or teething toy is a great teething remedy for a fussy baby, as is an object that is just slightly cool. But, keep in mind you want to avoid giving your child something that's too firm or too cold, as both can make the discomfort worse. A toy that's frozen solid can bruise baby's tender gums, whereas a toy that's excessively cold can cause similar injury. It's OK to give your baby a slightly chilled teething ring; just make sure you stash it in the refrigerator, rather than the freezer.
No whiskey, no gels, no freezer – you might be wondering just what is the safe way to soothe a teething baby. Less is more when it comes to relieving teething pain. Try to massage baby's gums with a clean finger to reduce swelling. If he wants to chew on something, pick a rubber or firm plastic object that won't break easily. Your baby might also enjoy gnawing on a big, plain bagel or a damp, chilled washcloth.
Once that first tooth pops up, it's time to start taking good care of it. Get good dental care habits started early by brushing the new teeth with fluoride-free toothpaste, as soon as they emerge.