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Teething Remedies: What Works and What Doesn’t

All the signs are there: the drooling, the ear-pulling, the fussiness. Your child is showing signs of teething. There can also be cheek rubbing, refusing to eat, waking at night, and general crankiness.

Teething can be painful for babies--and their parents. It's tough to watch your little one suffer through the sore gums and sleepless nights.

Here are suggestions about what you should and should not do during the difficult teething phase:

Teething Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

  • Use teething rings and toys -- Chewing creates a type of counter-pressure against the gums that relieves some of the pain of teething. Teething toys made of wood or rubber are the most effective.
  • Try gum massage -- Rubbing a clean finger over your baby's gums may also provide some relief.
  • Offer your child cooled items -- Try a wet washcloth or a metal spoon cooled in the refrigerator. Cool drinks and cold foods like yogurt, applesauce, or fruit may be helpful for children who have started to eat solid foods. You can also refrigerate your baby's teething toys.
  • Try breastfeeding -- Sometimes nursing provides comfort for teething infants, but for some babies, the sucking aggravates sore gums. See what works best for your child.
  • Ask your pediatrician about over-the-counter pain relief -- You may be able to use baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Don’ts

  • Don't put anything frozen in your baby's mouth -- A frozen surface can harm your baby's gums. Chilling the items in the refrigerator is fine, but don't freeze them.
  • Don't use homemade solutions -- Don't use any type of alcohol, herbal, or homeopathic teething remedies. They have not been proven to work and can cause serious side effects such as low blood oxygen and heart problems.
  • Don't use topical topical medications without a doctor's approval -- Don't use any products with benzocaine without a doctor's approval. Also, if you use a gel or cream, it's possible that your child could swallow some of the medicine, which could reduce his gag reflex and make him more likely to choke and cough. The baby could also accidentally spread the medicine to his face or eyes, so use carefully.
  • Don't use amber teething necklaces -- There is no evidence that they work and they pose a real choking hazard to your baby.
  • Don't give your baby aspirin -- No child under the age of 19 should take aspirin.

Once that first tooth comes in, you can learn more about caring for your baby's teeth in the article How to Choose and Use Your Baby's First Toothbrush.

For more information on caring for your child's teeth now and in the future see Dental Health for Children.

When teething first starts, it may feel like it will never end. These "do's and don'ts" may help your baby find some relief from the pain and discomfort of teething. And soon you'll get to see your baby's new, tooth-filled smile.

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