As a parent, it’s easy to find conflicting advice on just about everything, and cutting teeth is no exception. In my 4.5 years as a mom, I’ve been offered myriad solutions, and I’m still not sure what’s best. My oldest handled teething like a champ, but my youngest seems to be struggling as her last few teeth are pushing through.
Russell Horton, DO, a pediatrician at the Banner Health Center in Queen Creek, Arizona, answered a few of my questions.
Q: What are some best practices to help comfort and soothe kids who are teething? Does it change as kids age (first tooth vs. 2-year-olds, for instance)?
A: The best thing to do for teething pain or discomfort is to have the infant or child chew on something cool. We do not recommend completely frozen teething toys, as the extreme cold can hurt the inside of the mouth. A clean, wet washcloth placed in the freezer for 10 minutes works well, or a teething toy that is cooled, helps. Parents can dip a finger in cool water and massage the gums. This can especially help prior to breastfeeding if the child has been trying to bite the nipple. If the child or infant has been taking solids, then a frozen waffle or a banana can be a great teething object. For older kids, the advice would be the same, except they may be able to drink cold water from a sippy cup to help as well.
Q: Is it appropriate to give ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help with pain?
A: Acetaminophen can be given if other measures are not working. Ibuprofen is OK after 6 months of age.
Q: What about ointments?
A: Teething gels and numbing agents are not recommended. Research shows that they are not effective and do not stay in the mouth long enough to work. Also, they can cause serious health problems if given inappropriately or if a child ingests too much.
Q: Homeopathic teething tablets?
A: I do not recommend homeopathic remedies as they are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Q: Amber teething necklaces seem to be very popular. Do they work, and are they safe?
A: Amber necklaces have not been shown to be effective in helping with teething pain. They also carry a significant risk of strangulation and choking. If a parent is insistent on using the necklaces, then they must be advised to never let the child wear it unattended and to not drape around the neck, but instead place on the wrist or ankle.
Q: What else should parents know?
A: It is important to note that many symptoms that are often blamed on teething (for example, fevers, cough or diarrhea) have never been proven to be associated with teething alone. If parents see these symptoms or have concerns about the behavior of their child, they should talk with their pediatrician.