Somewhere around the sixth month of your baby’s life he or she will experience uncomfortable sensations as new teeth begin to push their way through the sensitive gum tissue. This can be a difficult time for the whole family. While some babies sail through the process with a minimum of fuss, others seem to suffer for days on end. What can a parent do to help?
A baby’s first tooth usually appears between the ages of 5 and 7 months. Some babies produce their first tooth a little earlier and others a little later. Often the two middle bottom teeth come through the gums first, followed by the middle four upper teeth. The teething process continues until the baby has its complete set of 20 deciduous teeth at about 30 – 36 months.
What Causes Teething Discomfort?
The discomfort associated with teething is largely due to the pressure exerted by the crown of the tooth as it breaks through the sensitive gum tissue or periodontal membrane, a process known as erupting.
What Are The Symptoms Of Teething?
Each baby experiences symptoms differently. For one child the eruption of a tooth may be a long drawn-out, painful affair, while for another it may seem to take place with no drama in the course of a restful night. Symptoms can include:
Slight swelling or puffiness of the gums. Sometimes a lump or a ridge is visible in the gum for weeks or months; sometimes there seems to be no visible clue at all until the tip of the little white tooth itself appears. Constantly putting fingers or fists in the mouth – but babies like to chew on things whether or not they are teething.
Fussiness Or Crankiness
Drooling more than usual. Drooling may start as early as 3 or 4 months of age, but is not always a sign of teething. While your baby is teething the gums will produce excess saliva, designed to moisten and lubricate those tender gums. Drooling helps make the teething process more bearable for your baby! In some cases when the baby is lying down excess saliva will accumulate in its mouth and slowly drip down the back of the throat, settling on the chest. This will cause a persistent cough and can be very harmful. Slightly raised temperature. Although tender and swollen gums can cause your baby’s temperature to be a little higher than normal, teething doesn’t usually cause a high fever or diarrhoea. If your baby develops a high temperature during the teething period, it’s probably due to something else and you should contact your doctor.
An Osteopathic Perspective
The osteopathic approach to health care recognises that any one area of the body is linked directly or indirectly to all other areas. The oral cavity provides access to the posterior nasal cavity (openings at the back of the nasal cavity leading to the pharynx), pharynx (back of the throat), oesophagus and lower respiratory tract (trachea and lungs). Osteopathic assessment and diagnosis followed by gentle osteopathic treatment offers a holistic, natural and medical approach all in one.
Cranial osteopaths understand the complex relationships between the bones of the face and jaw, head and neck and can help in reducing congestion in muscle tissue around the jaw, which in turn relieves pressure and pain. They will also ensure that the bony and myofascial structures of the head and neck are in the optimal position, as problems with teething, overcrowding of teeth and poor facial development are invariably associated with stresses and compressions in this area, especially if there is a history of traumatic or assisted birth. Babies are well adapted to withstanding the rigours of the birth process, but powerful forces are involved and retained compressions and distortions do sometimes cause problems.
In terms of health benefits gained, the cranial osteopath’s most useful work is with the newborn. Problems can be corrected much more easily and completely when the work is done in the first few months.
How To Help With Teething Discomfort
Teething is one of the main sources of pain and discomfort in infancy, and unfortunately these are experienced by nearly every baby to at least some degree. However, there are many things a parent can do to help.
Tips to Keep in Mind when Your Baby Is Teething Wipe your baby’s face often with a soft cloth to remove the drool and prevent rashes from developing.
Give your baby something to chew on! Make sure that it’s too big for the baby to swallow and can’t break into small pieces. Sometimes just the pressure applied to the gums and teeth by chewing is enough to alleviate teething pain. Something cold on the gums usually soothes and numbs them. A clean, wet washcloth placed in the freezer for 30 minutes makes a handy teething aid – just be sure to wash it after each use. You could try gently massaging your baby’s gums using the cool cloth, or with a clean finger. The baby may find this uncomfortable at first, but after a few gentle rubs he or she will probably stop protesting and relax, and you will find that you can adjust the pressure on the gums as necessary to relieve the pain. You may well also find that the baby enjoys sucking on a finger in its mouth. Just make sure the finger is properly clean!
Rubber teething rings are good, but avoid the ones with liquid inside because they may break or leak, especially if the baby has already cut some teeth – it is possible for a tooth to puncture them. Never tie a teething ring around a baby’s neck, as it could get caught on something and strangle the baby, and don’t freeze teething toys or rings, as these can hurt the gums.
If the baby still does not have teeth, a teething net containing a cold baby carrot or a frozen banana or other fruit can be an excellent choice, but remember that the baby must be supervised while sucking on the cold food, as there is a danger of choking. A naturopath might well recommend a piece of liquorice root, especially if mum or dad chews it a little first to soften it. It tastes great, has a numbing effect and is mildly calming. Teething biscuits can be used, but in moderation, because they can lead to tooth decay if overused.
Teething gels are not helpful. They are soon washed off the gums as the baby drools.
Use of teething powders and procedures such as cutting the gums are discouraged because of the possibility of infection or complications from ingestion of the medication.
Naturopathic And Homeopathic Remedies
A chamomile tincture, tea or homeopathic remedy is useful if the baby is irritable or unable to sleep, as it is a mild sedative while simultaneously helping with pain, fever and diarrhoea. Alternatively, a mix of yarrow, elder and peppermint tea is great when there is a mild fever. You could try stroking a very small amount of clove oil mixed in an oil base such as almond on the gums – this helps to numb the pain, but it’s very strong so do be careful. If there is inflammation of the gums the mineral salt IP (iron phosphate) can be used, or try the tissue salt Ferrum Phos if you can’t find mineral salts.
An excellent remedy is Pegasus Teething, Pain & fever 30c. This includes chamomile and other remedies that deal with symptoms associated with dental pain, teething pain, fevers, restlessness and tummy upsets, such as arnica, ars alb, glonoinum and belladonna.And If All Else Fails …
Sometimes the best way to relieve teething discomfort is simply to entertain the baby. Sufficient distraction can be enough to get him or her past the most painful moments!
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