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How to Handle… Cutting Molars

There’s teething—and then there’s teething. Cutting molars can be particularly tough—on your sweet baby, on you, and—if you have a screamer—on the neighbors, too. We asked a pediatric dentist, an alternative wellness expert, and a doctor who also goes by “Mom” for some tried-and-true tricks.

Nada Zayzafoon, DMD, pediatric dentist at Irving Park Dentistry in Chicago, IL

“By the time your child celebrates his first birthday, he will have a few teeth in the front. At about 13 to 19 months, his molars will start popping up. Thanks to their large size and double edges, molars can be twice as difficult to cut as those baby incisors. Common signs the process has begun include irritation of the skin around the mouth (from drooling), constant gnawing, ear pulling and cheek rubbing, refusal to eat, lack of sleep and, of course, crankiness. If you notice these symptoms, bring back those rubber teething rings, try giving your tot a cup of cold water (no ice), and rub his gums with your (clean) finger. If your child still seems uncomfortable, children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen are safe and will definitely help ease the pain.”

Dr. John Douillard, wellness expert, father of six, and author of Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Secrets Every Parent Must Know

“Kids produce a ton of mucus when they’re cutting teeth, which is a natural response to any irritation of the mouth. This mucus can become a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses, so this is a time when the child is a bit more susceptible to getting a cold. Chamomile tea and clove oil are famous remedies for soothing the nerves and helping to numb the gums. In addition, I always suggest some immune support. My favorite for young children is chewable colostrum, which they can chew or suck on—if ground, it can be mixed with water. It’s very slimy and tends to soothe the gums, while also boosting immune function. Children are particularly responsive to colostrum, too, as it was their first immune trigger when they nursed, as infants. As additional immune support, make sure they also take Vitamin D3, typically 2000IU per day.”

Melissa Arca, MD, pediatrician, writer and blogger at Confessions of a Dr. Mom

“Some children will be very fussy, and have a hard time sleeping, when teething, while others will suddenly wake up with a full mouth of teeth without you even knowing! However, if your child is going to experience some fussiness, increased drooling, and a disruption of appetite it will be with those molars. They can hurt!

My go-to dos and don’ts:

  • DO offer a cold/wet washcloth (put it in freezer for 30 minutes) to chew on, under your supervision of course. The cool, rough texture is soothing to sore and inflamed gums.
  • DO use cold (not frozen) teething toys, but avoid liquid-filled ones, which can be dangerous
  • DO offer plenty of TLC
  • DO use the appropriate dose of acetaminophen for significant pain, particularly if your child is having a hard time sleeping.
  • DON’T use teething tablets, topical numbing gels, or amber teething necklaces, all of which can present dangers to small children, and don’t ultimately provide more relief than safer approaches to soothing teething pain.”
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