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Help for teething toddlers

Rubber chewing toys are a great option for teething babies.

At 7 months old, Aspen Silverberg is toothless, but her parents see signs that those little white choppers may soon emerge.

"She's getting fussy," said her dad, Kaleb Silverberg. "That's why we think - and hope - it's right around the corner."

He grew up in Red Wing and lives in Eau Claire, Wis., with wife Stacy. She works at the Republican Eagle.

Silverberg has tried various remedies to alleviate his baby's pain, he said, including "freezer toys, rubber teething toys, ice cubes and, although rare, we use baby Tylenol when we are out of all other options."

He admits there he has not found one magic solution but said, "We will try anything to help her and ease her discomfort."

Professional viewpoint

Dental assistant Tiffany Schneider of Vaillant Family Dental said using gum toothbrushes specifically designed for teething babies are a great idea.

"The gum toothbrushes do not have bristles on them," she said, "and keep the gums nice and clean."

When the first tooth finally does pop through, Schneider said, fluoride may be recommended for infants. "Fluoride strengthens the teeth enamel and helps a baby's growing teeth become stronger."

You can also test your water at home, she said, to see if there is fluoride already in the water. Most city water has fluoride in it. You also can buy bottled water that contains fluoride in safe levels for children to consume.

One thing Schneider stressed was to not put your little one to bed with bottle of juice.

"Parents should not give their infants juice overnight, the sugar just sits on their gums," she explained, "We have 3-year-olds that come in with mouthfuls of cavities."

She recommends if you have to give your baby a bottle to soothe him or her overnight to only give very watered down juice, sugar-free juice or simply water.

Stages of teething

Although timing varies widely, babies often begin teething by about six months, according to the Mayo Clinic website. The two bottom front teeth (lower central incisors) are usually the first to appear followed by the two top front teeth (upper central incisors).

The level of pain is pretty similar (with various teeth) but sometimes, with molars, the pain is referred up to the ears.

Babies usually get the first molar at age 1 and the second at age 2.

Classic signs and symptoms of teething include drooling, chewing on solid objects, irritability or crankiness, and sore or tender gums.

Many parents suspect teething causes fever and diarrhea, but researchers say this isn't true. Teething can cause signs and symptoms in the mouth and gums - but not elsewhere in the body.

If your teething baby seems uncomfortable, consider these simple tips from the Mayo Clinic website at

Rub your baby's gums. Use a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to massage your baby's gums. The pressure can ease your baby's discomfort.

Offer a teething ring. Try one made of firm rubber. The liquid-filled variety might break under the pressure of your baby's chewing.

If a bottle seems to do the trick, fill it with water. Prolonged contact with sugar from formula, milk or juice contributes to tooth decay.

Keep it cool. A cold washcloth or chilled teething ring can be soothing on a baby's gums. Don't give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold can be harmful.

Try hard foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might offer something edible for gnawing - such as a peeled and chilled cucumber or carrot. Keep a close eye on your baby, however. Any pieces that break off might pose a choking hazard.

Dry the drool. Excessive drooling is part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby's chin.

Try an over-the-counter remedy. If your baby is especially cranky, acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others) might help.

Avoid teething medications that contain the pain reliever benzocaine. Benzocaine products have been associated with methemoglobinemia - a rare but serious condition that reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood.