By Cathy GarrardTeething is a routine part of child development which can be uncomfortable for both your baby and you. Here are a few pointers to help guide you through the process:
What to Expect
Most infants sprout their first tooth at six to eight months, with the the last of the molars appearing between 20 to 30 months. Due to the discomfort and swelling, your infant may experience increased drooling, sleep disturbance, and crankiness. Teething is often blamed for an onslaught of other problems -- coughing, diarrhea, rashes, fever -- but a recent study found those maladies are unrelated much of the time. "Teething symptoms should only happen during the few days surrounding the eruption of each tooth," says New York City pediatrician Paula Ebirt, M.D. So if they don't pass that quickly, your child may be sick with something else.
To help soothe pain, try teething rings. Stiff plastic or silver ones may exacerbate the pain if clamped down on too aggressively. Some soft plastic or liquid-filled rings may be frozen for extra comfort, but avoid the kind with small objects floating inside. Even gnawing on a wet washcloth provides relief. You may also consider a child-specific teething gel, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
Once your child's teeth break through the surface, wipe the gums off after feeding with a warm, wet washcloth -- particularly if your child is eating solid food. A swallow of water after a meal also helps prevent dental disease.
If your baby hasn't cut a tooth on the usual timetable, don't be alarmed. Like other milestones such as walking and talking, every child has his own pace. It may be as late as 14 months before a tooth will poke through. A family history of cleft palate or ectodermal dysplasia, a hair and nail growth disorder, may prevent the growth of some or all of the primary teeth. In rare cases, delayed eruption may be the result of rickets, a vitamin D deficiency that has been linked to exclusive breastfeeding. If your child hasn't begun teething by 18 months, see your pediatrician to rule out these possibilities.