4 teething myths every parent should know
A dentist and a pediatrician give the facts on teething
Every kid goes though it and yet, it’s universally misunderstood. Poor teething. It gets blamed for just about everything and probably causes very few symptoms.
I thought I would clear up some of these misconceptions and I asked Sheela Patel, D.D.S, a pediatric dentist at CookChildren’s to lend her expertise.
Teething Myth No. 1- Teething causes fever (or maybe you’ve heard it blamed for congestion, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, diaper rash, diarrhea or vomiting).
It doesn’t. Right, Dr. Patel?
“Despite what you may have heard, teething doesn’t directly cause a high fever or even diarrhea,” Dr. Patel said. “Babies tend to put everything in their mouth in an effort to massage their gums, so they may pick up bacteria.”
Here are some symptoms that have been found to be statistically associated with teething:
- Mild temperature increase
- Sleep disturbance
- Runny nose
- Appetite loss
You’re thinking, “See, I told you it does cause fever!”
Not so fast.
First of all, the temperature increase was noted to be 0.12 degrees Fahrenheit on the day that the tooth erupted. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think having a temperature of 98.6 vs. 98.72 actually makes a difference…
Second, the increase in temperature and the rest of the symptoms associated were found to be present on the day the tooth came and the day after. This was not a 2 week (or 2 month) process leading up to the teeth popping through.
The issue is that all kids teeth. In addition, all kids have occasional sleep disturbances, drool and have runny noses. Trying to determine if the teething causes these symptoms in a particular child is pretty difficult.
Teething Myth No. 2 - It’s too early for them to cut teeth.
The average age for the bottom middle teeth to come out is 4-6 months, but some children teeth before or after.
Some children are born with teeth, called natal teeth. If the teeth are stable in the mouth, nothing needs to be done. There may need to be some extra special care with breastfeeding moms to make sure their latch is not painful, especially during those early feeding days. If the teeth are wiggly, sometimes the pediatrician will pull it or recommend that you see a pediatric dentist to have it pulled.
Teeth can otherwise erupt any time after birth. But remember that the “symptoms of teething” that occur for two months before a tooth erupts are not likely due to teething at all.
Teething Myth No. 3 - They are too old to not have any teeth.
“He still doesn’t have any teeth.” I get this comment all the way from 6 months to 1 year. The right answer, “That’s OK.”
It is exceedingly rare for children to not have any teeth or to have teeth, but for them to never come out. A handful of babies don’t have teeth at their one year check-up but, I promise, they’re coming.
Teething Myth No. 4 - Teething must be treated.
The understanding of teething has changed a lot over time. Infant death used to be commonly associated with teething. Think about it, if a 6-12 month old child died for unexpected reasons, chances are they had a tooth coming in. Because of this, teething used to be treated with things as invasive as lancing the gums in order help them come through.
While we’ve come far enough to know that isn’t necessary. Parents still attribute a significant amount of normal fussiness or waking up at night to teething and treat based on this idea. What’s the problem? Everything we do has potential risks…from teething gels, to essential oils and even Tylenol® or Motrin®, while options, should be used with caution. (While I’m on my soapbox, just because something is the “natural” or “organic” variety, doesn’t mean it’s safe.)
For treatment of teething, Dr. Patel recommends that you “provide a firm rubber teething ring to chew on, but avoid the ones that are filled with liquid. Try giving your child a cool, wet washcloth to chew on. You can wet a washcloth, ring out the excess water and place it in the freezer. Make sure to wash it before each use. Give your child cool, softer foods such as applesauce or yogurt.”
Don’t let these common teething myths fool you. If your child has severe symptoms, don’t attribute them to teething. Don’t treat normal behavior with medication. Don’t assume that teething treatments are without risk.
About Sheela Patel, D.D.S
Dr. Patel is a dentist at Cook Children's Neighborhood Clinic on 2600 E. Berry Street in Fort Worth Texas, 76105. Dr. Patel received her dental degree in 2009 from University of Nebraska-Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb. She completed her pediatric residency in 2011 from the Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas. Dr. Patel is board certified by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The Neighborhood Clinic offers a dental home for patients from 6-18 years of age the clinic and most CHIP, Medicaid, and commercial insurance plans are accepted. The staff speaks English and Spanish. To learn more, click here or call 817-347-4600.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville. View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page.He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his three young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues..