Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Teething is tough. While many of the more severe "teething" symptoms (such as diarrhea, vomiting, and fever) are not actually brought on by tooth eruption (see this post), the local pain and inflammation at the eruption site is quite enough to be getting on with. How can we help baby with the challenging task of cutting teeth? People have been asking this question over the course of human history, and while many historical methods should definitely be avoided (opiates and lead, anyone?) there are luckily many safe ways to help a teething baby.
You've probably got a grumpy, teething baby on your hands so let's skip straight to the good stuff. Here is a list of teething management strategies from Sood and Sood, 2010.
Teething rings (chilled). To prevent breakage/leaking, chill liquid-filled teething rings in the refrigerator (not in the freezer), don't sterilize by boiling, and don't place in the dishwasher.
Hard foods such as sugar-free teething biscuits, oven-hardened bread, peeled cucumber, or carrots. Make sure to supervise baby to ensure that small pieces of food do not break off and pose a choking hazard.
Frozen food items (anything from ice cubes to frozen bagels or fruit). Again, with supervision.
Pacifier (frozen). If baby is comforted by a pacifier, gnawing on the frozen binky may provide temporary pain relief.
Apply pressure to gums with cool spoon, clean finger, or wet gauze. Fun fact: the expression “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” has its origin as a teething remedy. The pressure of the cold metal helps relieve discomfort!
Analgesic/antipyretics. In other words, baby Tylenol. It's recommended that you check with your pediatrician for dosage with children under 2 years old. Typically infants 6 months and older can take 2.5-5 milliliters of Tylenol once every 4-6 hours (Villines, 2020).
Reassurance. Sometimes baby just needs extra snuggles!
While some sources also recommend topical gels, many contain benzocaine or lidocaine which are not recommended for infants under 2 (Teoh and Moses, 2019). Also (unsurprisingly), the old "put whiskey on a baby's gums" strategy is not recommended by experts, as it may lead to hypoglycemia (Sood and Sood, 2010).
The bottom line: extra snuggles and cold, hard things to chew on may do the trick to help soothe your cranky, teething baby. But if baby is really upset a little Tylenol may be just what the doctor orders.
Sood S, Sood M. Teething: myths and facts. J Clin Pediatr Dent. 2010 Fall;35(1):9-13.
Villines, Z. (2020, April 28). Infants’ Tylenol dosage by age and frequency. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/infant-tylenol-dosage
Teoh L, Moses GM. Are teething gels safe or even necessary for our children? A review of the safety, efficacy and use of topical lidocaine teething gels. J Paediatr Child Health. 2020 Apr;56(4):502-505.