Drooling. Irritability. Diarrhea. Fever. Rashes. Appetite loss. Disrupted sleep.

All of these symptoms (and more) are often attributed to teething. A recent literature review published in Pediatrics this month on “Signs and Symptoms of Primary Tooth Eruption” indicates that babies and toddlers experience very few symptoms directly associated with teething. Gum irritation and redness was the most common symptom reported, observed in 87% of children ages 0-36 months. In the assessment of 16 medical articles, 68% were noted to be irritable, and drooling was seen in 56% of the children studied.

Parents often attribute fever (defined as a temperature equal to or greater than 100.4 ºF) to teething. But the correlation of fever and teething, according to the study, is a myth. Amy Norton debunks it:

Dr. Rosie Roldan is director of the pediatric dental program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, in Miami. She agreed that parents often mistakenly attribute fevers or other symptoms to teething.

“But at the age where teeth are erupting, babies are also being bombarded by infections,” said Roldan. “And we don’t want to miss that bigger picture.”

Besides fever, Roldan said, some other symptoms that should not be attributed to teething include: sores or blisters around the mouth, appetite loss and diarrhea that does not go away quickly. They all warrant a call to the pediatrician.

 

It’s tough to be young. Many things can cause an infant or toddler to be a little bit fussy, to inhibit appetite, to produce loose stools, or to interfere with a good night’s sleep. Teething, it seems, isn’t one of them — a point covered once before on The PediaBlog:

Teething gets blamed for a lot of what parents perceive to be infant discomfort and fussiness. Symptoms of illness such as fever, excessive crying, decrease in appetite, disruption of sleep, rashes, and diarrhea are commonly blamed on teething. Interestingly, there is very little evidence that teething causes any of these symptoms. Indeed, teething is overrated as a source of misery in babies.

 

Other than a cold teething ring or cool, wet towel to chew on, parents shouldn’t feel obliged to use potentially dangerous topical medications, or even safe over-the-counter analgesics like acetaminophen — especially when, as this study shows, they are not needed.

 

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