Tame Teething Trouble

Tips for soothing teething troubles.

baby girl teething on toyd3sign/Getty Images

When a baby cuts a new tooth, both baby and parents suffer. The baby-care section in your local drugstore offers over-the-counter products like Infants’ Tylenol that can ease the pain, but be sure to consult with your pediatrician and follow label directions. Of course, that’s just one option for relieving your child’s teething troubles. For plenty more, see the remedies below. But whatever you try, the main ingredient will be parental patience during those fussy weeks when the first teeth emerge.

Help Your Baby Chill Out:
Pick up a water-filled teething ring at the department store or baby store, chill it in the refrigerator, and let your baby chew on it. The cold temperature numbs the gums and brings pain relief. Just don’t put it in the freezer. Objects that have been frozen can cause frostbitten gums. Babies older than six months can chew on a clean washcloth soaked with cold water.

Wrap an ice cube in a clean cloth, and rub it gently on the baby’s gums. Be sure the ice itself doesn’t touch the gums, and keep it moving so it doesn’t get any spot too cold.[/step-item]

If your baby is just cutting her first tooth, you can use a chilled spoon to help ease the pain. Chill a spoon in the refrigerator (not the freezer) and apply the rounded part of the spoon to your baby’s gums when she’s fussy. As with a cold teething ring, the chilled spoon helps numb the areas that hurt most. But once a tooth comes in, don’t use the cold-spoon approach, as your child could chip a tooth.

Cold food can help relieve gum pain. Cut up a bagel, put the pieces in a sandwich bag, and store it in the freezer. When your baby is uncomfortable, give her a piece to gnaw on. The coldness helps numb the gums, and the edges of the bagel will massage your baby’s gums as she chew on it. Just be sure to stay nearby and take away the bagel when it turns mushy. Offer your baby a frozen banana (peeled, of course). The banana thaws quickly as your baby chews on it, and the cool fruit soothes the gums. As with the bagel, however, you want to take away the banana when it becomes mushy.

mother comforting baby in armsResolution Productions/Getty Images

Sometimes giving your baby some extra affection can ease teething pain. Give the little one some cuddling time, or carry him around the home to distract him from his discomfort.   Massage her gums with a clean finger for a few minutes. The pressure feels good, and the attention from a parent will be comforting.

Make a clove-oil gum soother by mixing four drops of clove essential oil with at least 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Before you give it to your baby, try the mixture on your own gums to make sure it’s not too strong. If you feel any irritation, add more vegetable oil. Never use straight clove oil on your baby’s gums; it’s much too strong.   Place one or two drops of chamomile oil on a wet cotton swab and apply to the gums twice a day. The blue oil has a soothing effect on irritated skin and gums.

A cherry-flavored gel called Baby Orajel can help ease teething pain. Another option: Orajel cotton swabs. They have the same nonalcoholic painkilling medicine and flavor as the gel. Any of these products should be used in very small amounts. They not only numb the gums, they also numb the “gag reflex,” which means that swallowed food can be aspirated into the airways without producing the normal gagging or vomiting response.

As soon as the teeth emerge, start regular cleaning. Twice a day, rub the gums very gently with a soft toothbrush or clean washcloth. This helps control bacteria in the mouth, which reduces teething irritation as well. Also, it’s important to get your child accustomed to the feeling of having his teeth cleaned.

baby boy laughing showing baby teethJill Lehmann Photography/Getty Images

What’s Wrong?
Between the ages of four and eight months, as the first teeth begin to emerge, a baby’s gums grow red, tender, and swollen. Some babies grow fussy and irritable and have difficulty sleeping. Most put their fingers in their mouths, and you can expect to deal with a lot of drooling. Teething problems are usually most noticeable with the first two to four teeth. But some children continue to have pain when the other teeth come in, which can continue up to the age of three.

Should I Call the Doctor?
Contrary to common belief, teething should not cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite. If your child develops any of these symptoms, they’re probably signs of some other health problem, so call your pediatrician. It’s especially important to call the doctor if your child has a temperature — even low-grade — that lasts more than two or three days.

Skip It!
One old folk remedy for teething is to rub liquor on the baby’s gums. However, giving alcohol to babies and children isn’t a smart idea. Use another, safer remedy instead.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest