Does Teething in Infants Cause Pain and Illness?

Is your child suffering from teething pain and discomfort? Or is teething pain just an old-time medical myth?

Sometime between four and six months of age, most babies get their first tooth, and they’ll keep getting a new tooth until all of their primaries are in place by the age of two and a half years.

Any parent that has watched their baby cry in discomfort during the teething years would be hard-pressed to say their child isn’t in some pain. But can it lead to illness? For many years, people believed teething and illness were synonymous. In fact, as little as one hundred years ago teething was blamed for many infant deaths. So what’s the reality? More than likely it’s somewhere between the two explains Dr. Allan Green, author of From First Kicks to First Steps. “Good studies have shown that some babies experience significant discomfort, low grade fevers and diarrhea with teething”, explains Dr. Greene.

But pediatrician Dr. William Feldman says that between four months and two and a half years of age children are exposed to many viruses and bacteria, and it’s unwise to automatically blame illness on teething. His concern is that if parents simply chalk up their child’s fever to teething, a more serious illness can be missed. “If there is a fever which accompanies this, it’s usually caused by a virus that just happens to be there at the same time,” explains Feldman.

If your child is in discomfort from teething, the temptation is to soothe the gums with one of the many over-the-counter topical gels available at the pharmacy, but Dr. Greene does not recommend these. “The topical gels, I’m not a very big fan of. Many kids don’t seem to like them very much. They leave the mouth feeling numb and swollen like you’ve just been to the dentist, they wear off very quickly, and they can decrease the gag reflex in some kids.”

Instead Dr. Greene recommends “a variety of solutions for babies who are experiencing difficulty with teething. Massaging of the gums can be very helpful with a clean finger. There are some homeopathic teething gels that are quite gentle and many parents report great success with those.”

Over all, while it is hard to see your child suffering from teething pain, remember that in the long run this is relatively short-lived period in your child’s life. Teething rings and massage can be helpful. And if your child becomes ill, don’t automatically assume that teething is to blame. Instead have your child assessed by a physician to rule out any other health concerns.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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