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The Truth About Teething & Sleep

The most common phrase I hear for children not sleeping is that they are teething and it is keeping them up all night. Teething is blamed for months of sleepless nights. Babies start getting teeth between 4 and 10 months of age and according to the American Dental Association and babies will have a full set of 20 teeth by the age of 3 years old.

The truth is, teething only last for a few days. It may temporarily throw sleep off for 2-3 days immediately surrounding a tooth breaking through. There is usually an underlying reason such as being overtired and/or a sleep association, for your little not sleeping if it’s been going on for a long time.

We interviewed Dr. Taylor McFarland ( who is a Board Certified Pediatric Dentist in Virginia to get the "lowdown" on what we can really expect around teething and sleep. She confirmed our thoughts that teething is blamed for a whole whack of conditions including extended periods of fussiness, sleepless night, high fevers, diarrhea, congestion and even vomiting.

We asked Dr. McFarland what 4 signs parents should look for to determine if their child is actually teething.

1. As you may have guessed, drooling is one of the biggest signs. due to more saliva being produced around the same time that teeth begin to erupt.

2. Fussiness comes in at number two with your child being fussy 2-3 days around the tooth erupting, which can impact sleep during the night.

3. Increased desire to chew on pretty much anything!

4. Refusing to eat due to sore gums

This is all terrific to know but how can we help out little one's when they are teething? There are many ways you can provide comfort for your child while still preserving good sleep habits. You want to be mindful that you are not inadvertently helping your baby form new sleep associations. Dr. McFarland gave us some great suggestions to try.

  1. HYDRATION was top on her list! Try and keep your baby well hydrated during this period of fussiness.

  2. Have LARGE pieces of frozen fruits and vegetables for them to chew on.

  3. Teething rings which are very firm and have some texture.

  4. Frozen washcloth for chewing on.

  5. Pain medication such as ibuprofen to help reduce the inflammation. (Always consult with your doctor before administrating any medication)

So what about the "natural" remedies that we see and hear so much about? Do they work? Are they safe? What about teething gel? Is that safe?

Dr. McFarland mentioned for parents to stay away from using over the counter teething gel that contains benzocaine. There is risk of methemoglobinemia (a blood disorder in which too little oxygen is delivered to your cells)!!!! I certainly did not know this before speaking with her!!

Homeopathic teething remedies are not regulated so Dr. McFarland also cautioned parents to be certain that they do their due diligence and research the homeopathic company before they choose to use homeopathic remedies. Many homeopathic teething remedies have been recalled so we want to make sure they are safe.

Dr. McFarland's last safety advice was to be very cautious with the teething rings that are filled with liquid as these can sometimes leak and be harmful for your child.

Thank you Dr. McFarland for sharing your knowledge about Pediatric Dentistry!!

For more awesome dental advice for your little one, follow Dr. McFarland on:

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