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Separating Fact from Fiction in Pediatric Medicine: Infant Teething

Teething is one of the most common sources of parental concern in the world of pediatric medicine. All children go through it, typically starting at about 6 months of age, and the current list of signs and symptoms attributed to the eruption of teeth in infants is long and varied, with most if not all of them inaccurate if not highly suspect. And although teething as a concept may seem rather commonplace, it is an entity with an interesting history and a frequent impetus for exposing young children to ineffective and even risky treatments.

What is teething?

Simply put, teething occurs when a tooth nears completion of its journey into the oral cavity, a journey which begins early in fetal development. The tooth erupts though the gum, often preceded by a small lump. Occasionally there can be a larger eruption cyst, and the area may appear somewhat bluish and swollen from bleeding into the tissue, but this is uncommon. The most widely accepted duration of a bout of teething is a roughly 8 day period, with tooth emergence generally felt to occur on day 5. The whole process usually takes about two years, with an average of one tooth emerging each month until the full complement of 20 baby teeth are present.

Teething past

In my opinion, the history of teething is a great example of the extreme degree of absurdity that conclusions based on a prescientific approach to illness often resulted in, right up there with humors and homeopathy. Early philosophers like Hippocrates attributed a wide variety of minor symptoms, such as itching gums and loose stools, to teething, and many of these still make the current list. But because of our once-poor understanding of human physiology, infants were felt to be extremely vulnerable to any derangements in their nervous system and more serious outcomes were attributed to the eruption of teeth, including death. Yes, death.

As crazy as this sounds, it actually isn’t that hard to understand why it was believed for at least a couple thousand years that teething could result in serious illness and even death. Remember how frequently a tooth emerges? Once a month, on average, for a couple of years, in early childhood. People attributed severe illness and death to teething for the same reason that some people continue to blame autism on vaccines: Pure coincidence and a lack (or the in the case of vaccines and autism the denial of) a systematic and logical approach to documenting and evaluating natural phenomena.

Until the advancements of scientific medicine, such as vaccines for instance, children frequently died or suffered through a variety of common ailments during the same time period as teething. And of course the true cause of these afflictions was unknown. So it became widely accepted that teething was a source of fever, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, tetanus and meningitis, to name just a few, and even death. It was not uncommon for teething to be listed as the cause of death in children prior to the late 19th century. Unfortunately, many of these children probably died as a result of the misguided attempts at treating the perceived symptoms of teething.

Teething present

Though we have come a long way in our understanding of human physiology since the 19th century, there remains widespread misunderstanding of what symptoms can reasonably be attributed to teething. Parents and other caregivers are quick to list fever, difficulty sleeping, fussiness, drooling, changes in feeding amount and frequency, nasal congestion, and diarrhea, in addition to the most frequently cited symptom of pain, but the evidence has not been very supportive of these beliefs. To put it bluntly, it does not appear that the eruption of a tooth can be successfully predicted by any collection of symptoms. I have spoken to many parents who believe that their child has been teething for weeks without a tooth revealing itself. It just doesn’t work that way.

Experts do not believe that any systemic symptoms can be caused by the teething process. This includes poor appetite, congestion, difficulty sleeping, diarrhea, vomiting, cough, rash, or fever. At most, there may be some discomfort that goes along with the teething process. As with colic, a significant factor is the variability or fit of the parent-child dyad. The same child may be perceived as being more or less symptomatic, or not symptomatic at all, depending on which caregiver is observing them. Many new parents are exposed to misinformation regarding what to expect from teething and it is likely that at least in some instances it is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts.

The eruption of permanent teeth, which begins around age 6 years, is not typically associated with discomfort. This may be because of differences in sensitivity to pain between infants and older children, but it also might be evidence that the process just doesn’t really hurt that much. It is a myth that the new tooth cuts its way through the bone and gum. In reality a pathway emerges because of the remodeling of the tissue. Many children felt to be teething, and in need of treatment, may in reality be feeling no discomfort whatsoever. An indirect danger in continuing to attribute systemic symptoms to teething, and perhaps even pain, is the possible delay in seeking out appropriate investigation into their true cause.

Popular (but ineffective and potentially dangerous) teething treatments

More troublesome than any indirect harm of the misattribution of systemic symptoms to teething is the potential direct harm of actively trying to manage them. Historically the risk of serious harm from teething treatments was much greater. Many therapies used in the past were extremely toxic, such as lead- and mercury-based compounds. Consistent with beliefs in homorism, vomiting and diarrhea were frequently induced in order to purge the body of excess humors. The use of opiate based preparations could cause respiratory suppression and honey was a source of infant botulism.

The belief that tension on the gums played a prominent role in teething symptomatology was widespread. As a result, surgically cutting the gums in order to open up a path for the emerging tooth was a common procedure until the late 19th and early 20th century in developed countries. In some less developed regions around the world, the gums of infants were still frequently sliced open and the teeth removed. Sadly, well-meaning but dangerous efforts such as this still exist in some areas, and children continue to die of infection or live with significant malformations of the lower jaw and remaining teeth.

Many historical remedies for teething were based on a belief in magic. This hasn’t changed appreciably considering that one of the most common treatments used today is homeopathy. The pages of SBM are filled with articles discussing the mind-boggling inanity of homeopathy, so I won’t go into great detail in this post. In a nutshell, homeopathic remedies consist of concoctions diluted to the point that there is no possible means of therapeutic efficacy, if not non-existence. The proposed hypothetical underpinnings of these remedies are irrelevant as the reality is that there is no remedy in the remedy.

Hyland’s homeopathic teething tablets is one of the most popular examples of this. Continued belief in homeopathic remedies despite our improved knowledge of the pathophysiology of human illness, and how to treat it, is based on the naturalistic fallacy and an overemphasis on personal anecdotes rather than actual quality scientific evidence. Check out their website and provided video testimonials, and count up the logical fallacies. Their disclaimers, and reassurances that the amount of belladonna in the product is completely safe, are quite telling. The reason for all the fuss on their website is because of FDA concerns about the inconsistency in the amount of belladonna in the tablets and reports of toxicity in children. Hyland’s appears to disagree with these concerns. I’d go with the guy with all those medals though. Camilia from Boiron is another popular homeopathic product marketed for teething.

Another popular but ineffective remedy for teething symptoms is amber, typically incorporated into a necklace or bracelet. The claims regarding just how wearing amber might treat teething symptoms range from complete woo, such as it being charged with reiki energy, to somewhat more reasonable claims of analgesic chemicals being absorbed by the skin. These claims are implausible and thoroughly unproven, and amber jewelry represents a worrisome choking risk in young children.

Since it is believed by many that the source of any potential pain related to teething is localized to the area around where the tooth erupts, naturally a variety of topical preparations have been developed. These products typically contain the anesthetic agent benzocaine. Even assuming that teething does cause discomfort amenable to being numbed by a local anesthetic, there is a lack of evidence to support that these products are effective. But even if they were helpful in teething infants, the risks far outweigh any possible benefit. Children, particularly those under the age of 2 years, are at risk for a potentially deadly condition called methemoglobinemia when benzocaine is ingested or absorbed through oral mucosa. Methemoglobinemia interferes with the bloods ability to transport oxygen and can occur within minutes or hours after exposure, even after the very first use.

The FDA has issued warnings about this risk, and most pediatricians discourage the use of products containing anesthetics as well as those containing aspirin-like chemicals. There are also homeopathic gels, and teething oils that commonly contain clove oil. These only appear to work via parental placebo. The manufacturers of Orajel, probably the most widely known line of products used for teething and pain from oral ulcers or hardware, has jumped on the bandwagon and now offer their own homeopathic gel.

Use of oral analgesics like acetaminophen and ibuprofen (in babies over 6 months of age) is also common. There are no studies proving their effectiveness. Instead their use, as with all other interventions, is based on personal anecdotes and likely only appear to help because of any number of placebo effects. While these medications are relatively safe, and certainly safer than historical remedies or some of the other current popular treatments, they do have risk. Acetaminophen is associated with severe liver injury when overdose occurs and ibuprofen can cause bleeding in the stomach and kidney injury with regular dosing. These adverse effects aren’t common but they do occur.

How should teething be managed?

The safest approach to teething is to return whatever “remedy” you just purchased, thus avoiding anything that may potentially be harmful. Most experts will concede that although there are no systemic symptoms caused by teething, there may be some local discomfort. But it may be very mild, or there may be no pain at all. So any risk is likely too much when it comes to treatment.

If you believe that your child is experiencing discomfort, there are teething rings which can be chilled in the refrigerator which he or she can chew on. The thought process is that cold and pressure may help relieve discomfort. Avoid anything that may serve as a choking hazard in young infants, such as teething biscuits or cold bagels. And if you do choose to give acetaminophen or ibuprofen, check your dosing very carefully and avoid other products, such as cough and cold medicines, that may also contain acetaminophen.

Conclusion

Everyone has an opinion about teething and how to treat it, and most of that advice is wrong or at least not based on any evidence. Though historically teething was seen as a life threatening malady, it does not cause systemic symptoms and may not even actually cause significant discomfort. If your child has fever, diarrhea, significant changes in behavior, or excessive irritability, talk to their doctor before blaming these symptoms on teething. If your child appears to have some minor discomfort, supportive care (i.e. TLC) is the safest and likely most effective remedy.

Posted in: Science and Medicine

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40 thoughts on “Separating Fact from Fiction in Pediatric Medicine: Infant Teething

  1. windriven says:

    Well heck. Another myth broken. I had always believed the ‘eruption’ myth that teeth pushed their way up through the gums. I used the chilled teething rings to good effect but I now suspect it was just because it offered a change in sensory experience.

    As an aside, my middle daughter the ski bum visited last weekend and I gave her an earful about an amber necklace my grandson was wearing – a gift from one of her friends. Her attitude was the typical shruggy: yeah, it probably doesn’t do anything but what can it hurt? I hadn’t considered the choking hazard. She should prepare herself for another earful.

    But I questioned her carefully about vaccinations and she produced a passport-like booklet provided by BC Health (she lives in the land of endless snow) with a dizzying array of vaccinations – far more than when she was a child. The vaccinations included one for rotavirus – an infection that very nearly killed this daughter when she was 11 months old.

    1. mousethatroared says:

      And here I thought amber was just cool, cause it may have old bugs in it.

      But any necklace that is strong enough to keep a child from choking on it is strong enough to be a strangulation risk too…not good.

      My daughter was a compulsive chewer, I spent a reasonable amount of time trying to find safe chewable objects. Unfortunately she would resort to anything that was handy. A sleeve, collar, stroller belt, hairpin (Which show up on an x-ray very clearly, once swallowed…funny now, not funny then.)

      I will add, I really thought drooling had something to do with teething. If it’s not teething what’s up with all that drooling in toddlers? Is it just a developmental motor control thingy?

      1. Sean Duggan says:

        Lack of motor control would probably make sense given one sees drooling problems in the elderly and those who have impaired motor control for other reasons, but I would not be terribly surprised if part of it is experiential too. Drool provides a cooling sensation, creates slippery surfaces, and lets the child make noises and blow bubbles that they couldn’t easily do before.

        1. nancy brownlee says:

          @Sean Duggan
          Well yeah, babies drool a little; not much. Toddlers rarely drool- by the time they’re toddling, their heads and necks are well under control. Fine motor control starts with the eyes, then the head itself, neck, proceeds downwards. More or less. Anyway, the floods of drool some teething babies produce is in another class entirely.

  2. I have always been of the opinion that many parenting difficulties could be solved by a glass of wine just before bed applied orally to each parent.

    1. mousethatroared says:

      I always preferred a glass of something toward the end of the witching hour (as I fixed dinner), to ease me through the cooking, food cajoling and noodle throwing chaos.

    2. Birdy says:

      It’s good advice.

      I always make a point of saying hi when I come across other Islanders online. :) So, hi!

  3. michael crowe says:

    Great post. Perhaps a visit to the local dentist may be more appropriate than a paediatrician?! Only other issue that arises periodically is a dental eruption cyst. Nice article.

  4. LRosa says:

    Senator Linda Newell (D-Denver), sponsor of the 2013 bill to legalize naturopaths in Colorado (which was, alas, successful), testified that she gave her children homeopathics for teething. She said sometimes it worked and sometimes not, but that her children may have been crying for some other reason, implying it couldn’t have been the fault of the homeopathic preparation.

  5. Liz Ditz says:

    What about the myth that “Teething produces histamines, which open the blood-brain barrier. Vaccinating during teething gives neurotoxins direct access to your baby’s brain.” (Followed by the ominous “you have a choice”).

    The woosters promoting this myth cite the following reference:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7982064

    And some more recent ones, specifically rat studies.

    It’s been refuted by a meme

    http://rtavm.blogspot.com/2013/02/myth-about-teething-and-blood-brain.html

    But as always having more ammo is better.

    1. Clay Jones says:

      .
      I found only two references to histamine and teething on PubMed, both decades old and published in foreign journals so I can’t read them. I’ve seen some references to increased levels of various other inflammatory markers but not histamine. I don’t think it means anything.

  6. Carl says:

    Here’s the label for homeopathic Orajel:
    http://orajel.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/natural-source-homeopathic-gel-en.jpg

    Note that it contains(ish) both caffeine (a stimulant, in the form of coffee beans) and chamomile (supposedly a sedative and anti-inflammatory).

    So does homeopathy reverse the effects of a substance or not?

  7. Mark Hanna says:

    Amber “teething necklaces” are quite common here in New Zealand, where there’s a common cultural belief that they can help relieve the symptoms commonly believed to be associated with teething.

    I’ve spent the past year dealing with our Advertising Standards Authority to have misleading advertisements about them removed. Most of the advertisements here focus on the “succinic acid” idea, which I’ve written about on my blog

    Many retailers also sell these products for adults, claiming they can help with other things, usually eczema, generic pain, and arthritis. None of these claims seem to be backed up by any evidence though, of course.

  8. Rob Cordes, DO, FAAP says:

    I have been hoping SBM would address this. Multiple times a week I tell parents “Teething causes teeth. Nothing else. it does not cause fever , diarrhea or diaper rash” Then Jeff Foxworthy’s voice pops into my head “wrapped floors, cluttered draws, poor gas milage and low resale value on your home”

  9. TiredFather says:

    Having a two old and having done my research a while back I’d come to the exact same conclusion as this article. I’ve never believed the gels do much for unbroken/undamaged skin and the garbage homeopathic stuff… well some of our tired friends swear by it for some reason.
    And yet even for a science devotee like me I’ve become convinced something is going and there’s something which children really really don’t like about teething or let’s stay neutral and say ‘what keeps them awake at night’. It’s been documented numerous times on these pages that pain is very non-specific and affected a lot by placebos but I’ve become convinced following night after night of ‘experiments’ that whatever that sensation is it’s reduced by paracetamol and ibuprofen. The latter seems to work longer on the worst nights. Whatever my nighttime experiments lack in scientific rigour they certainly don’t suffer confirmation bias- going on in the background all the time are my discussions with my wife, my position being ‘don’t treat no evidence’ hers being ‘treat we need to sleep’. Of course eventually she wins and we sleep with no more interruptions. At least I’ve convinced her that a correct dose of paracetamol is safest of the two…
    Our daughter (I know, N=1 in my study) can talk well and has just recently got her last two molars and tells me sometimes when she wakes ‘my teeth hurt daddy’. Something is going on here.
    A final thought, yes it is certainly better to avoid use of the medicines named but let’s also consider the risks to health posed by tied parents and kids- personal injuries, occasionally serious, are common in toddlers and tired parents who drive motor vehicles are also at risk.

    Thanks for the great posts SBM bloggers- I’m a huge fan.

  10. Kathy says:

    You mentioned clove oil. When we were kids we tried chewing on the whole cloves my mother put into her home made apple crumble, and they have quite a strong local-anaesthetic effect on the tongue, which we thought was rather cool. Dentists also used to rub it on kids’ gums before injecting stronger anaesthetic, to prevent the pain of the prick. The effect is not long-lasting as I remember, a few minutes, but that’s long enough.

  11. windriven says:

    The hot link to your site doesn’t work, at least on my iPad. Could you provide the URL?

    1. vadaisy says:

      The hot link to your site doesn’t work, at least on my iPad. Could you provide the URL?

      Winddriven, This looks like the site.

  12. Juanita says:

    Thank you for covering this! I will be saving the link to this post and passing it on liberally!

  13. Jane Cobb says:

    The growth of my wisdom teeth – not impacted and which erupted normally – gave me considerable jaw-aching discomfort.

  14. goodnightirene says:

    I’m late on this one, but feel the need to confess.

    I occasionally stuck the tip of my finger into a tiny bit of good scotch whiskey and rubbed this dab on what seemed to be the sore gums of a fussy baby.

    Shoot me.

    My Mom told me to do it and as I was a very young mother (by today’s standards, but not at the time) I still listened to my own Mom. I can’t remember if I used this “remedy” with the others, but certainly not with the youngest, who was ten years younger than the previous youngest.

    At any rate, thanks for continuing to expose these awful parenting myths.

    1. Tallise says:

      I wouldn’t think there is anything actually wrong with that amount of alcohol, it doesn’t seem like the effects would last long though…

      1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

        I’m curious why it has to be “good scotch” :P

        1. Sawyer says:

          Because if you’re going to stick your hand in a baby’s mouth with a questionable remedy, you at least want to feel classy doing it.

  15. agitato says:

    I’ve just done a google search of baby care sites on ‘teething’ and almost all warn parents about it, stating that it’s painful and the cause of irritability, sleeplessness, poor appetite etc etc. A few mention that some babies don’t seem to be bothered by teething at all but this is assumed to be because some babies have a high pain tolerance, not that the process isn’t painful. In my personal experience, the infant teething experience has been so varied, I could easily accept the idea that it isn’t painful at all. So…is it painful or not? And how could the answer be found?

    1. nancy brownlee says:

      @agitato
      “So…is it painful or not?”

      All I can offer is considerable baby-tending experience: eldest of six, mother of two, grandmother of two, etc. It varies. A lot. Some babies show no sign they’re teething- and one morning, you hear a clink on the spoon as you feed the cereal. Then the next kid bounces around in the crib like a little gorilla and grizzles from dusk until dawn and you wish you didn’t know that the paregoric your grandmother recommends is really, really not okay. Nursing, from you or a bottle, seems to increase discomfort (howling and biting). You give Tylenol, and he goes out like a light for 6 hours. A grandbaby drools quarts, nose running, eyes running, off and on for weeks; her father takes to calling her ‘Snotblossom’ . She gnaws so ferociously that her gums are visibly swollen and red. Again, the Tylenol works.

      I remember considerable soreness with erupting molars. It doesn’t seem implausible that some infants have enough discomfort while teething to disturb them. It does seem quite likely that the degree of discomfort varies a lot.

    2. Clay Jones says:

      Unfortunately, we can’t ask the babies and there are no studies looking into whether or not it actually hurts. This perhaps could be done if the event of teething was more acute rather than spread out over days. We could look at heart rate, blood pressure, facial grimacing, etc. This would be very difficult. What we know is that parental perception of teething does not appear to correlate well with the eruption of a tooth. I didn’t get into this, but simply remembering the hits and forgetting the misses could lead to a parent believing in hindsight that they knew when their child was teething and then adding to the anecdotal reports that make up the bulk of the widely accepted but likely false understanding of the phenomenon. I absolutely can not rule out some minor discomfort in some babies but feel comfortable saying that it is very unlikely that teething causes significant pain.

  16. MadScienceMeg says:

    I’m surprised the article did not mention the use of liquor such as brandy to relieve teething pain. I think it is probably the most common home remedy for teething pain. Also, I would argue that the reason adult teeth don’t hurt coming in is because they are taking the place of a previously erupted tooth. I know as an adult, when my wisdom teeth came in, I was in pain for weeks. Very interesting topic though.

  17. p says:

    I realize you are trying to be scientific, and you probably aren’t a jerk like some doctors I have dealt with in the past, but I think making the statement as you do that babies feel little or no pain while teething is arrogant. If a baby appears to be in pain, he probably is. How do you know they aren’t?

    “Experts” are too quick to think parents catastrophize or exaggerate. Doctors gave me that same nonsense for 3 months before they realized my son had a brain tumor the size of a walnut. Oh no, don’t listen to parents! It’s all in their minds.

    Some kids undoubtedly have no problem with teething. Some have a lot. Some fall somewher in between. And some parents are actually competent to figure out when their children are actually teething. Please don’t fall into the trap of dismissing parental observation or assuming that because many children have no problem with teething, all or even most don’t. Just because people in the past have overestimated, we don’t need to underestimate.

    My son only had a hard time with two of his teeth. The others popped in, no problem. I just let him chew on pizza crust or a teething biscuit. Choking hazard? If your months old child chokes on a teething biscuit, it’s because you left him unsupervised. Those things won’t choke a kid any more than any other food will. They will however, become a slimy mess and get ground into your carpet. I always heard to use poscicles but my kid didn’t like cold stuff. A rubber or plastic toy worked fine too. No need to buy special teethers.

    On a completely different tack, if your kid is chewing a lot, for days on end, esp. if they are also crying and not sleeping but don’t seem to be sick, they might actually be stressing, not teething. Biting, chewing, and grinding teeth are common stress reactions in preverbal kids.

  18. Stacy says:

    Wow! I’m speechless really at the level of bias shown here in this article. Aside from dismissing that teething comes with any side effects, which is preposterous to me having had 2 teething children, this author is totally biased against any natural remedies, which to me means they are not objective or open minded.

    First, in regard to teething not having any side effects… It’s obvious to me when a child is teething based on observed behavior. They go from just lying there from birth to around 3 months to constantly gnawing on their hands and everything they can grab, sometimes more forcefully than other times as if trying to accomplish something; this is when I believe it’s really from teething (I get that some of that is sensory learning). Fussiness, when it’s uncharacteristic, is a sure sign to me as well. Both of my babies have great even-keeled temperaments, so when they fuss, there’s a good reason and when that reason is deduced down to not being hungry, tired, or wet/dirty, I attribute it to teething (when btw 3mo and maybe 12mo – my first had all his teeth except 2nd year molars by 1 year). Now I will say that my son was a good teether – he never woke up in the middle of the night or anything like that, but he definitely was a drool machine until all his teeth were in and I definitely attribute that to teething. I didn’t see any theories on what causes drooling otherwise mentioned in the article, why not? If you’re so quick to say it’s not the teething, why not give us some research/evidence about what it could be in all babies that experience excessive drooling?

    So why is it so wrong to think that erupting teeth might cause some inflammation that causes discomfort? That seems logical to me. Tissue is moving and opening, we can physically see the redness at times. That’s no coincidence of something else when probably every parent, if not most, can say they saw that in their baby’s mouth at one point or another. Are we all crazy for thinking that was caused by teething? I can’t believe I even have to defend this, but I couldn’t not say anything.

    As I mentioned before this is obviously a really biased article which alone in my opinion makes it lose any credibility, but I am definitely offended by the comment comparing homeopathy to witchcraft. Really? There are no spells involved, lol! You obviously don’t know how it works, so let me tell you…the idea is that there is just enough of the substances to trigger a healing response in the body. Period. It’s pretty simple and it makes sense. To use your reference to vaccines (which I won’t even go there), it’s like the theory behind a vaccine…a small amount of the disease causes the body’s immune system to kick into gear and create antibodies to protect against the disease…instead it’s a small amount of a substance that triggers healing by the immune system. “Homeopathy is based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’, that is, a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in small amounts to treat those same symptoms.” – http://www.homeopathy-soh.org/about-homeopathy/what-is-homeopathy/. That site is a good reference for explaining it. I use homeopathy for all sicknesses, ailments, and teething and I swear by it because IT WORKS! Arnica is awesome for bruising, I used to have bruises linger for quite awhile, when I started using Arnica, they are gone in a day or 2, that’s no coincidence. Cold Calm works amazing for colds – I give it to my son and my baby and it works for them too, so it’s not the placebo effect as babies don’t even know what you are giving them to “think it will work”. And I also swear by Hyland’s for teething/fussiness. They are amazing. Anyway, I’m probably wasting my breath, but just in case anyone else sees how biased and unscientific this article is, despite the site title, I thought I’d share.

    I don’t want to offend anyone, but I had to defend the other side.

    1. Chris says:

      “I don’t want to offend anyone, but I had to defend the other side.”

      Too late.

      Yes, this site has a bias. The bias is towards science and reality. That reality includes Avocado’s Number.

      For more information read these articles: http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/category/homeopathy/

    2. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      If one is objective and open-minded, one looks at the evidence for and against natural cures. One would then note that there is no evidence for many.

      As for your belief that behaviour is caused by teething, how do you know that it’s not caused by greater ability to control their limbs, and thus reach their mouths? The mouth is the most sensitive sense organ at that age, it gives far more feedback than hands or eyes, particularly when the gums are not exposed rather than being blocked by unfeeling teeth. The fact that your personal incredulity prevents you from believing something doesn’t make it untrue. Perhaps you are merely ignorant of the topic of which you speak. And keep in mind, merely being a parent is not a gateway to true knowledge. It used to be known that colostrum, the very first golden drops of breastmilk now known to be made up of antigens, was poisonous, and destined to cause degeneracy in children. All parents knew this. Logic isn’t a guide either, logic used to convince people the earth was flat, and that bleeding was an effective medical procedure.

      Homeopathy is witchcraft. It’s an attempt to use contagion to transmit the properties of one substance to another, in an effort to manipulate the unseen forces of human health. And it’s nonsense. You clearly believe that homeopathy is somehow related to the use of actual substances. It is not. It is just water.

      Also – so you had a bruise for a long time, then used homeopathic arnica, then they went away? In other words, you had a bruise for a long time, then they went away. People use treatments and see the doctor when their symptoms are at their worst. When a symptom is at its worst, it is likely to go away anyway, simply because it has nowhere to go but down.

      If you really think you understand homeopathy, then you know nothing of physics, chemistry or biology. I suggest you read Jay Shelton’s Homeopathy: How it really works. You might learn something.

      It’s funny that you claim the article is “unscientific” and attempt to prove this by stating a bunch of anecdotes. Do you know why anecdotes are scientifically unconvincing?

    3. superacidjax says:

      The big problem with parents (and well-meaning grandparents) that subscribe to the “natural” cure methods is multi-fold. The first issue is that correlation does not equal causation. Example: Baby is teething, baby has diarrhea , therefore teething causes diarrhea. Parent gives something to relieve the teething pain and the diarrhea goes away. Therefore teething causes diarrhea. Of course it the kid drank apple juice that day, perhaps that caused the diarrhea? Or maybe it cured it? The other myth, which is common in my wife’s hispanic family is that shaving a baby’s head makes the hair grow back thicker. They shave baby, the hair grows back thicker than the original hair therefore shaving created thicker hair. However, a baby’s hair thickens anyway (with or without shaving) therefore that myth is completely based on an ignorance of science. But since everyone does it, there’s no control group with which to compare the shaved baby — and since all babies are different, it still is an area in which the old-wives tale is difficult to disprove especially when in a culture that has been conditioned to believe it.

      The other problem is when the so-called naturalists claim some benefit or another by using a specific potion or remedy, despite the science. The molecular structure and biochemical processes of x logically don’t cure y, but since they want to believe in the effectiveness of this herb or that, they ignore scientific evidence that disproves their theory. Practitioners of Chinese Traditional Medicine are highly guilty of old-wives science. Despite the frequent scientific publication discrediting many CTM practices, people still believe it works because they want to believe it. I once taught in China and I had a student who was sick with a cold. His parents gave him some CTM concoction for 2 weeks and finally he was cured of his cold. So obviously the “medicine” cured him. Despite the fact that 2 weeks is actually a longer duration cold than is normal. So in fact, the CTM medicine likely prolonged the cold. Once again, correlation doesn’t equal causation.

      The odd and perhaps ironic part of this all is that those that are avowed homeopaths and naturpaths also are convinced that man-made CO2 emissions are warming the planet because “science” is settled. Yet that same demographic of people often opposes vaccines and modern medical science in favor of old-wives witchcraft and pop-culture propaganda (Jenny McCarthy anyone?) The inconsistency of that position is telling — people believe whatever it is that supports their worldview. A true skeptic and scientific disciple, questions everything until proven otherwise.

      By the way, I am not taking a position on global warming — I was just using that as an example of the human psychology behind certain beliefs.

      On a side note, I think the very best thing a parent can do is learn how to use PubMed and read medical research. This way they can equip themselves to at least attempt to understand things that people claim as “fact.” I had the good fortune to have a Biomedical Science minor and fairly significant research experience, so reading the literature is second nature for me — much to the chagrin of my wife’s family!

  19. Thank you for sharing this advice. I will definitely pass this on.

  20. JFitz says:

    A very compelling article. I had always thought that teething must be painful but now I’m not so sure. Here’s an idea: chewing on objects helps reduce swelling by applying pressure to the gums. Sleeping infants are not chewing on anything, so their gums swell and eventually become tender, waking the child. Another idea that was not addressed: A newly erupted tooth is certainly new to an infant’s tongue, so there is a tendency to keep feeling it with the tongue, which may become sore and even a little bit roughened-up. A sore tongue might cause symptoms like drooling and resisting food, and would surely be soothed by cold teething rings.

  21. PK says:

    While much of this article rings true, you lost me at the point where you said teething doesn’t hurt, and doesn’t happen in fits and spurts. My wisdom teeth have been “coming in” for 4 years now. Most of the time there is not any pain involved, other times there is with no noticeable effects, but I can feel my other teeth shifting to make room and it’s excruciating having all of your teeth rearrange themselves for a few days. Other times the pain actually leads to the teeth erupting or coming up further. I cannot believe that baby teeth are different. Maybe individual mouth and teeth shapes/sizes help account for variability of pain.
    I give my toddler ibuprofen on the really bad nights. We both get sleep. You try forcing something cold into a sleeping child’s mouth and see how much sleep you get.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      Baby teeth don’t displace existing teeth and remodel bone like wisdom teeth do. I also glance askance at the idea that teething doesn’t hurt, but I don’t know enough to claim any special knowledge.

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