Every parent knows there are just some aspects of their child’s development that are simply going to happen eventually, no matter what. During these phases of development, parents know they just have to soldier through as best they can because these phases of development are simply a part of growing into your human body. One of these aspects is teething. Teeth are going to come in eventually and it is always going to create some level of discomfort; and an uncomfortable child creates an uncomfortable parent every time. While teething is, and will always be, an uncomfortable process, however, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a wide range of things a parent can do to help this process be more comfortable for their child and therefore also more comfortable for themselves. Here are some tips to help you help your child make it through the process of teething.
1. Know the signs to look for
Since teeth generally start appearing at around SIX months OF AGE, your child can’t tell you that they are uncomfortable or in pain, so you will have to watch for certain behaviors instead. The first tooth can appear between six month to fifteen months of age. Here are some things to look for that can be a sign your child is about to start developing teeth:
- Irritability: Infants and toddlers will sometimes get cranky when they are tired, hungry or in need of a diaper change, but if they are rested and fed and there is still just no pleasing them, they might be feeling the discomfort that comes from an erupting tooth.
- Clinginess: When small children are uncomfortable, they don’t understand that something is wrong, but they still need you to fix it. If your independent child is suddenly stuck to you like glue, this can be another sign a tooth is on its way.
- Red, swollen or irritated gums: If you pull their lip back and are greeted with angry red gums, teeth are most likely on their way.
- Decreased appetite: Obviously, if their gums are swollen and in pain, they don’t want to chew or eat. If your normally healthy eater is suddenly just picking dejectedly at food, spitting it out or avoiding it, check their gums.
- Excessive chewing or biting: While all babies and toddlers will sometimes put things on their mouth or chew on things, if they suddenly start chewing excessively or biting things they don’t normally bite (like people) this can actually be a sign that they are in dental discomfort.
2. Keep it cool
While cold is very soothing to an infant or toddler’s inflamed gums, frozen items like popsicles or teething rings may not be the best solution. The extreme cold of these frozen items can sometimes create just as much discomfort. A far better answer is to offer refrigerated items to chew or suck on. Put a wet washcloth in the freezer for 30 minutes and then take it out and let your child chew on it. Cold foods like apple sauce or yogurt can also help soothe inflamed gums.
3. Give lots of cuddles and snuggles
While there is still a great deal we do not know about brain chemistry and its effect on pain, the truth is that pain is actually the result of chemical or electrical impulses in our brain. Science is also discovering that there are a number of neurotransmitters and hormones our body creates or secretes which help to dampen these feelings of pain. This may be why children naturally become a bit more clingy when they start to experience teething discomfort.
Oxytocin is sometimes called the “bonding hormone” because our body secretes it when we hug, hold, cuddle or snuggle with someone or even a pet or animal. Oxytocin has also been found to have significant pain dampening effects, so simply holding your child or snuggling with them on the couch or in their bed can potentially provide the very best form of pain relief. If you have a pet, your child may also benefit from snuggling with them as well. Even snuggling with their favorite blanket or plush toy may also have the same comforting and soothing effect, potentially due to the secretion of oxytocin or other neurotransmitters like Seratonin, which has also been shown to have pain dampening effects. While scientists may not yet understand the full picture of how pain works or how our hormones and neurotransmitters work to inhibit pain, it can certainly never hurt to give your child extra snuggles when they are uncomfortable or in pain.
4. Be careful with any type of medications, including natural remedies
While there are any number of over-the-counter products on the market, including many labeled or branded as “natural”, it is good to always remember that vitamins and supplements are a largely unregulated industry and the testing thresholds for many over-the-counter remedies are very low. Before you give your child medications of any kind, including natural or over-the-counter ones, it is very important to talk to your pediatrician first. This also includes topical medications for teething, which often contain lidocaine or benzocaine. Remember that even if you are applying it topically, you are putting it in their mouth, which means that ultimately they will be swallowing whatever you are using. It is always best to try and use natural methods to soothe your child first and only resort to medications or other products as a last resort and even then, always use them as sparingly as possible. A good choice is to massage a small amount of clove oil to soothe irritated gums.