Teething and the terrible twos: every parent’s nightmare combination. Just as your child is beginning to test their limits and discover their independence, new teething troubles arise to exacerbate an already difficult phase. Incisor and canine eruptions have nothing on the molars. Their broad size and multiple edges make molars the most painful tooth-cutting experience to date for toddlers. Let’s talk about teething toddlers and how to deal.
Like any other aspect of growth and development, each child will teeth differently. However, most molar eruptions are accompanied by three main symptoms: inflammation, pain and an excess of saliva and mucus. These main symptoms are the culprits behind a multitude of additional symptoms including irritability, ear pulling, cheek rubbing, irritated skin around the nose and mouth, refusal to eat and trouble sleeping. When dealing with teething, the best thing parents can do is provide a combination of soothing TLC and safe pain relief options.
Not sure what to do — or what not to do — for your teething toddler?
Use this list of do’s and don’ts to keep your child safe and soothed:
- Don’t use fluid-filled teethers; they can puncture or burst.
- Don’t use hard foods like whole carrots or frozen bananas. As children gnaw on these edible teethers, large chunks can break off and pose a choking hazard.
- Don’t rub gums with alcohol to help with teething pain. This home remedy can result in alcohol poisoning. Even small amounts can be lethal for young children.
- Don’t use teething biscuits or hard cookies. Sucking and gnawing on these sugar-loaded treats can lead to cavities and other dental issues.
- Don’t use amber bead necklaces. There is no proof to back up claims that they help, but they are proven choking and strangulation hazards.
- Don’t try homeopathic remedies without checking with your child’s pediatrician. Many well-meaning parents unwittingly pass on false or dangerous information, like recommending amber beads or a little whiskey on the gums. Your pediatrician will know which “natural” remedies are safe and which are toxic or dangerous.
- Don’t write off all behavior as teething. Ear infections, for example, are a common childhood issue and share some symptoms (like ear pulling) with teething. Look for other symptoms like ear drainage, fever or trouble hearing. When in doubt, consult your pediatrician.
- Do offer your toddler a sippy cup of cold water without ice.
- Do offer cool snacks like applesauce or yogurt. Stay away from high-sugar snacks like ice cream.
- Do offer a cool washcloth to chew or suck on. Try popping a wet washcloth in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, and be sure to change and wash the cloths frequently.
- Do offer teething toys. Try keeping a few in the fridge so you have a cool teether available at all times. Make sure all teethers are made of baby-safe materials.
- Do massage inflamed gums with a clean finger or a clean, cool damp cloth.
- Do massage gums or provide a teether before offering solid food or before breastfeeding. A pre-meal massage can help if your teething tot has been biting at the nipple or refusing to eat due to gum pain.
- Do keep a clean, soft cloth handy to pat away drool or mucus. Keep a fragrance-free, natural lotion on hand to use if skin becomes dry and irritated around the mouth, nose and chin.
- Do provide distractions. Take your toddler’s mind off the pain with a change in activity or a change in scenery. Take a walk. Go to the park. Switch out their toys. Play a game. Get them laughing.
- Do provide extra hugs, snuggles, kisses and love. A little TLC from Mom and Dad can go a long way.
Most importantly: remember that teething is only a stage. It may seem eternal when you’re in the middle of it, but before you know it, the molars will be through and the tears will dry. Keep calm, keep a teether handy, and you’ll be out of the teething trenches before you know it.
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