If you remember the agony of cutting a wisdom tooth, you can probably sympathise with a baby who is cutting their first tooth. The process is painful, but thankfully there are many over-the-counter remedies as well as teething toys that reduce pain and help baby to cut teeth, a little less painfully.
There are some babies who seem to cut teeth almost effortlessly, with little or no pain, virtually no dribbling, no runny tummy and almost by magic, the first pristine white milk tooth appears. There are other little ones who appear to get it all when cutting teeth – an upset tummy, a high fever, crankiness and a total loss of appetite. Many moms are concerned about teething and upset tummies but the fact of the matter is that teething is not directly responsible for the upset tummy, it’s actually a side effect of teething.
Why baby’s tummy becomes upset during teething
A baby’s stomach is exceptionally sensitive and when they are teething, their gums become painful and inflamed and as a relief mechanism, the tooth-cutting tot quickly reaches for anything and everything to bite on or to suck on. These chewy teething relievers are at the best of times riddled with bacteria and since a baby’s tummy is known for being super sensitive, it does’nt take a lot of bacteria to cause an unsettled tummy. Moms are able to keep bacteria at bay by ensuring that all baby’s teething toys are kept perfectly sanitised and clean at all times. The toys can be soaked in a sterilising solution (as used for bottles and teats) or boiled – both these methods will effectively rid the chewy relievers of any bad bacteria.
Babies are pretty sneaky characters and when their gums become itchy and inflamed and begin to ache, they will grab anything in sight – ensure that all regular household objects are kept out of reach and make sure that teething rings are easily accessible. Certain foods can also be given to alleviate the itch and pain of the swollen gums, such as a hard rusk. Parents must never leave baby unattended, as the rusk can become soggy and the baby is at risk of choking.
To reduce the pain of teething, moms can make use of any of the available teething gels and powder rub-ons which are sold commercially. Using these products will also prevent baby from sucking on or chewing on a variety of contaminated household objects.
It has also been suggested that upset tummies occur during teething because extra saliva is swallowed. The extra saliva is not caused because the salivary glands become more active during the process of teething, but because baby is keeping the mouth open for longer periods of time and since they are putting a lot more objects into their mouths, a lot of the saliva is drooled out but more saliva is also swallowed. Childcare experts and paediatricians alike disagree with this notion but do confirm that the additional saliva swallowed by baby may cause stools to be loose, but will not cause an upset tummy.
The other symptoms of side-effects of teething!
- Fever! A high fever is not a common symptom of teething, however a relatively low-grade fever is and the fever has been put down to the inflammation of the gums. Baby-specific pain and fever reducing medicine can be given to baby to bring down the fever and reduce the inflammation of the gums.
- Cold-like symptoms (such as a runny nose). These symptoms are not caused directly because of teething but are again a side effect of teething. Paediatricians believe that the baby’s immune system is weakened and vulnerable during this stage, and to this end, they are more susceptible to viruses which cause runny noses or colds.
- Nappy rash may be caused by the upset tummy that has been caused by the bad bacteria and nappy rash can be avoided by changing nappies regularly (change soiled nappies immediately) and using a good quality barrier cream to protect the baby’s sensitive bottom.
- Irritability. A very common side effect in teething babies. When the sharp tip of the tooth rises closer to the surface of the gums, this may lead to discomfort and pain, causing a baby to become irritable and cranky. Using paediatric pain medication to provide temporary relief will soothe the fussy infant.
- Drooling and a facial rash. With more saliva in the mouth, drooling is par for the course and the constant flow of saliva out of the mouth causes an inflamed rash to develop around baby’s mouth and chin area. Wipe the drool away using soft cotton cloth, but be sure to wipe gently as rubbing will only worsen the rash. Using Vaseline before bedtime and after bath time will form a protective barrier on baby’s sensitive skin.
- Weight loss – this is not a common side effect of teething but may occur because a baby loses their appetite during teething because of their swollen and painful gums. Certain foods may also aggravate the already sensitive gums. This is temporary and generally once the tooth has made an appearance, the appetite will return to normal.
Most babies start to cut teeth between the ages of four and seven months, however, early developers have been known to cut their first tooth at as young as three months, while other babies cut their first tooth after their first birthday. Interestingly and in very rare cases, a baby’s first tooth may already be seen at birth!
Teething and Old Wives Tales
Teething has not been untouched by myths and popular old wives tale relating to teething is that baby who cuts a tooth early is extra intelligent, and if a baby is born with teeth, they are deemed as being unlucky and selfish! Fortunately we know that none of these old wives tales are true and the age at which a baby cut its first tooth has no bearing on intelligence or lack of!