Those Aching Baby Teeth! - Children's Dental Health Month

Last Editorial Review: 1/28/2000

February is National Children's Dental Health Month so we consulted with Dr. Peter Domoto, chairman of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, about what is often the first big problem that parents encounter with their children's teeth -- teething.

The piercing yowl of a baby in pain is enough to break a parent's heart even if the cause is as ordinary as teething. Parents and other people with a child may notice teething as early as three months of age and it can continue until age three.

Teething pain can be relieved with a teething ring, a cool spoon, a cold wet washcloth or a toothbrush, according to Dr. Peter Domoto, professor and chairman of the Department of Pediatric Dentistry in the University of Washington School of Dentistry.

Dr. Domoto noted that many parents hear false information about teething. Contrary to popular views, teething is not responsible for high fevers, diarrhea or facial rashes. These are conditions that merit a call or even a visit to the child's health care provider. They have nothing to do with teething but may be a tipoff to a significant illness.

Teething occurs as the tooth penetrates the gum. Babies actually grow their teeth before birth and at about four months the teeth begin progressing to the surface. By age 3, the baby should have 20 pearly whites to show for his or her trouble.

Products such as Orajel may provide some relief. These products contain a local anesthetic, benzocaine, for surface use. Benzocaine is well adapted for topical anesthesia since it is absorbed slowly and is not toxic, according to Dr. Domoto. Other products approved by the American Dental Association include Baby Orabase, Gingicaine, Hurricaine, Super-Dent, Topex and Topicale.

Dr. Domoto noted that parents whose water is not floridated can promote the development of strong teeth during babyhood by obtaining a prescription for floruide drops for infants and toddlers. Chewable tablets should be used as soon as the youngster can "chew, swish and swallow," he said.

Parents should never allow babies to fall asleep while sucking a bottle with milk or sweet fluids. Sugary fluids can sit in the baby's mouth and vastly increase the likelihood that the baby will develop cavities.

The pain of teething is fleeting, but good care of baby's teeth can make for the foundation of a healthy mouth.

For more information, please visit our cavities forum.

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