Dear Dr. Mady: I have a two and one half month old daughter who is screaming night and day and sick all the time. I recently noticed her chewing on things much more often than before. Could she be teething at such an early age and if so how will I know and what can I do to help the situation? - Ruth-Ann in Old Walkerville
Dear Ruth-Ann: It sounds like you may have a classic case of early teething on your hands. It is very important to learn about your baby's teeth early so that you will know what to expect and how to handle it properly.
There do exist some babies in the world who go through infancy without ever experiencing any discomfort related to their teeth. On the other hand there are many who will fuss, cry and even scream for months on end due to erupting primary teeth. No one of us can accurately explain the mystery surrounding this chain of events called teething.
What we do know and understand is that every child born is different. Although very rare, some children are born with teeth already in their mouth. The average age for teething is three to four months and the first two teeth usually erupt (appear) at around the age of seven months. In any case, an average one year old will have six teeth, a two year old will have sixteen, and a three year old may have twenty teeth (a full primary set).
Your child may be crying, drooling and chewing on everything in site even months before a tooth appears and other symptoms can also exist at the same time. These include diarrhea, vomiting, coughing at night and fever, but these may not be directly caused by the teething. Excess saliva during this period, after ingestion, can cause the baby's stool to become very soft and can increase the occurrence of vomiting and spitting up. Mild fevers are normal but any temperature above 101 F is most unlikely related to teething.
The most important and successful tools in treating this condition are teething rings. Always have them available from the time your child is born and keep them chilled in the fridge (not freezer) when they are not being used. They are usually fabricated from firm rubber but I have seen them available in sterling silver and liquid filled rubber. Other suggestions include chewing on a wet frozen wash cloth, chilled yogurt or apple sauce, popsicles, or even frozen bagels (not too large).
Comfort your child during this period. It will pass but don't take anything for granted. A very common mistake is for parents of teething children to ignore high fevers. Most of the time this is unrelated to the teething and there may be something else wrong. If this is the case, seek medical attention immediately from your pediatrician or the nearest available clinic. Your doctor may recommend liquid acetaminophen to reduce the fever, reduce her teething pain and make her more comfortable. In terms of other analgesics (pain killers), there are many available that may help out during the rough periods. They are sold over the counter and can be found in the form of liquid drops, chewable tablets and regular tablets or capsules. Always consult with your pediatrician before administering any type of medication to your child so that the proper form and dose can be determined.
This column is reprinted with the permission of the author and The Windsor Star. "Ask the Dentist" is written by Windsor dentist (and ECDS member), Dr. David Mady Jr.. The column appears the first Thursday of each month in the Windsor Star. Readers with questions can write to "Ask The Dentist", c/o The Windsor Star, 167 Ferry St., Windsor Ontario, N9A 4M5