Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
Teething…if you have cut a wisdom tooth, you can put it into adult perspective. The gums are sore and achy; you just want the tooth to come through the surface. Instinctively you reach for a piece of gum, chew until it is soft and move it to the area where the tooth is attempting to erupt. You bite down hard – and continue to do so until the chewing gum loses its flavor.
Instinctively we chew when we are cutting teeth and babies are born with this instinct. Of course, it does not help that they are exploring the world through their mouths at the time teeth being to emerge. So what can you do to help your child with their teething pain?
Some people suggest allowing them to chew on wooden toys. This obviously will not work for infants who are teething early because of the weight of the toys and the baby’s inability to manipulate it to their mouth. I have a concern about wooden toys because of the paint often used to brighten them and because of splinters when they are worn. However, I had a girlfriend whose toddler chewed on the headboard of his crib when teething and nothing else would satisfy him. One mother I know suggested that wooden spoons are a good teething option. I can see this as the spoon is thin enough to fit between the child’s gums but not too small to be a choking hazard – plus they are used for cooking so there are obviously no issues with contaminants leeching into baby’s mouth. My main caution would be to be sure that the spoon does not get too worn that splinters could become a problem.
Some babies and toddlers, however, demand something cold and cold is certainly soothing for inflamed gums. For infants, chilled teethers are light-weight and easily handled. Additionally, a baby washcloth with chipped ice can also be held against the gums, but definitely require parental supervision. For toddlers, a frozen banana or a frozen grape in a washcloth will work wonders. I have heard of some mothers freezing formula or even breast milk in cubes and placing these in a washcloth for the toddler to chew on. Cold provides excellent relief, but of course is messy. However, considering the additional drooling that occurs when our babies and toddlers are teething, a little more “mess” is hardly objectionable when it is providing a bit of relief. (For toddlers, popsicles are also a wonderful teething tool ; however, I suggest you reserve them for warmer weather and outdoor venues.)
Teething biscuits for toddlers are portable, tasty and hard enough to provide relief while “mooshy” enough at the time a piece breaks off to prevent choking hazards. Arrowroot biscuits have been popular for as long as I can remember and are very low in sugar. However, there are a wide variety of teething biscuits on the market including those that are soy, dairy and gluten free. They come in all flavors including vanilla and caramel and many are labeled organic. There is bound to be at least one that your toddler will enjoy.
A relatively “new” teething solution are amber teething necklaces. They are not actually new, dating back to 460 BC; however, they are experiencing a “come-back” of sorts. The most popular and “effective” amber teething necklaces are made from Baltic amber. Most of the sites I researched state that amber teething necklaces are “gentle and completely without side effects.” This claim is not entirely true. In a situation where everything is going into the mouth in their search for comfort, amber teething necklaces are NOT meant to be chewed upon. They are, instead, placed around the toddlers neck, underneath his clothing, worn against the skin. In addition to amber’s natural property of “warming” when it comes into contact with human flesh, providing a sense of comfort, the natural ingredient meant to supply additional relief is succinic acid, found naturally in the external layers of amber and deemed to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. Some sites selling these products tout succinic acid as “a very special substance that is totally natural to the human body and works with the body to support the immune system, restore health, and reduce infection as well as pain.”
On the one hand, succinic acid is used by the food and beverage industry as a sweetener. On the other hand, there are studies that indicate it should be not ingested all all. I refuse to take either side. My argument is two-fold: 1) Safety based upon possible choking hazards and 2) the “proof” of whether amber teething necklaces work. Reputable companies producing and selling amber teething necklaces state that they reduce the choking hazard by using very strong thread to string the necklace and knotting each beach so that if the necklace does break, only one bead comes loose. This is grand and I appreciate that they have thought this out, but one bead can choke a child. Also, toddlers are incredibly active and some are climbers. When this necklace with its very strong thread gets snagged on something, it is possible that the child is going to choke themselves without ingesting a bead. My second “concern” is proof that this works. There are all sorts of claims from statements that the remedy has been used for “ages” to claims of its healing properties. But there are no studies that I can find that support the claims for this product. Literally, no studies. This being said, I am disinclined to accept the word of the manufacturers without the backing of a double-blind clinical study to support their claims.
I personally will stick with the remedy ingrained within our instincts – chewing. Cold ice chips, frozen fruit or formula in a soft washcloth. Teething biscuits. For infants, the clean finger of a parent can work wonders! Teething is as old as time – follow your instincts.