Babies get sick while teething

Having teeth doesn't make you sick!

“That teething makes children sick is a superstition that has persisted for centuries. In the past, almost all diseases in babies were attributed either to teething or to worms, ”explains pediatrician Prof. Dr. Berthold Koletzko, Chairman of the Children's Health Foundation. “Even today teething is often still regarded as a disease, especially by parents who are observing this critical time for the first time. The fact is, however, that 'tooth cramps', which used to be seen as the cause of death in infants, were mostly due to infectious diseases. Between the sixth and eighth month, exactly when the baby begins to teething, the defenses given by the mother - the so-called nest protection - decrease. The child becomes more susceptible to infection. Switching from breast milk to bottled milk or solid food, which usually occurs during this time, can also put a strain on the baby's organism. That can also cause the body temperature to rise. "

Sometimes a tooth comes alone

It takes an average of seven months and three days from birth until a baby shows its parents its teeth for the first time: usually starting with the lower incisors. And it often takes another month for the child to add another tooth.

Then it goes tooth to tooth: After the upper incisors have also appeared, the first milk molars are added (at around 12 months), the canines at 16 to 20 months and the second molars at 20 to 24 months: the delicately shimmering pearl necklace of the 20 milk teeth is complete.

Normally, the eagerly anticipated milk teeth grow through the gums without damaging the mucous membrane and completely bloodless, emphasizes the Children's Health Foundation. The eruption of teeth can also be associated with side effects that cause a lot of stress in the family: The baby becomes restless, irritable, tearful and ill-tempered. The lining of the mouth may become red or bluish in color. Occasionally one sees a fluid-filled space above a penetrating tooth. The tension in the gums can be painful. The children drool more and rub the irritated gums. The temperature rises slightly.

However, increased temperature accelerates the metabolic processes in the body - and often only triggers the eruption of the teeth. This makes it appear that the teething is the cause of the fever. However, it is rather the other way around.

Over a thousand studies on the first tooth

What do supposed "tooth fever" and the other troubling symptoms really have to do with teething? A group of Brazilian doctors at the University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis recently investigated this question in a large-scale meta-analysis of scientific studies. For their study, the paediatricians and dentists viewed a total of 1,179 publications on the subject of teething (Massignan C. et al (2016): "Signs and symptoms of primary tooth eruption: a meta-analysis", Pediatrics 137: e20153501).

The studies actually revealed a number of complaints, reports the Children's Health Foundation: 70.5 percent of all babies showed symptoms or abnormalities when they first erupted their teeth. The most common were reddening of the gums, restlessness and increased salivation. Other frequent accompanying symptoms were diarrhea, loss of appetite, insomnia, runny nose, occasional changes in the skin on the face and vomiting. When multiple teeth erupted at the same time, more complaints were reported.

The most important subject of the investigation, however, was the question of the alleged "tooth fever" and its consequences. The reassuring result: the eruption of the teeth actually led to a slight increase in temperature more often, but only rarely to a fever over 38 degrees Celsius (measured in the bottom).

Professor Berthold Koletzko: “This is in line with the experience of most paediatricians: having teeth is not a disease and it does not cause any diseases. If children have a high fever, more serious findings or complaints while teething, one should not blame the teething too quickly, but think about other pathogenic causes and present the child to the pediatrician ”.

Teething was always an important event in earlier times, and it was given exceptional attention. The idea that teething poses a great danger to children goes back well into the early days of medicine.

Some superstitions persist to this day

Superstitious beliefs, some of which have survived to this day, also had a major influence on the treatment of teething problems. In many areas the teething child was “discussed” - a custom that is still widespread in warts today. In Bavaria the jawbones of a slaughtered hare were nailed to the right and left of the bed of the teething child. In Franconia, midwives rubbed the baby's gums with holy water to make teething easier; in Thuringia, teething children were given a dog to lick their teeth.

For many centuries, wearing an amulet was considered an effective remedy for teething problems in babies. The use of coral necklaces was particularly widespread, but also glass beads, gold and silver chains, velvet ribbons with a self-sewn magnet, amber chains or chains made of malachite. There was even a science called "lithotherapy" (Greek "lithos" = stone), the methods of which were even dealt with in pharmaceutical textbooks.

Amber in particular was said to have significant healing properties and it was believed that if you just kept it in your mouth you could prevent infection. It was believed that an amber collar would protect its wearer from witchcraft and ill wishes. So the amber became a particularly popular amulet against the difficult teething of children.

Amber - a dangerous teething agent

Even today, drugstores, pharmacies and internet retailers offer necklaces made of real or fake amber, which are supposed to make teething easier for babies. There is no evidence of this effect, but there is evidence of the dangerousness of fashionable baby jewelry: The belief that a necklace made of amber makes teething easier is scientifically untenable and even dangerous, emphasizes the Children's Health Foundation. The chains can injure the child while playing or sleeping and even strangle them if they get caught somewhere. Such strangulations are the leading cause of violent death in children under one year of age in the United States. Their incidence has increased significantly in recent years.

But there is also danger if the chain breaks: there is a risk that the child will put stones in their mouth and swallow them or that they will stick them in their nose and ears. "Parents should therefore refrain from using these superfluous and dangerous 'remedies'", recommends Professor Berthold Koletzko.

If the baby is troubled by teething, it is good for him to be able to chew on something. Teethers filled with water and cooled (not from the freezer!) Are particularly suitable for this. Other chewing toys should also be smooth and have no edges so that there are no injuries to the gums. It also often helps to massage the baby's tooth strip with your finger. Liquid teething products from the pharmacy contain narcotic substances as well as anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving agents, but mostly also alcohol.

Daily cleaning prevents tooth decay

Parents should be more careful with edible dentifrices, says the Children's Health Foundation: Small pieces of the carrots or hard bread crusts, which are often recommended for chewing, can easily break off and get into the wrong throat - there is a risk of suffocation.

"Incidentally, the first teeth do not mean that the child now has to be weaned," emphasizes Professor Berthold Koletzko. While drinking, the baby cannot bite the chest as long as it lacks the opposing bite. The lower teeth are hidden by the child's tongue when sucking.

And something else important: milk teeth also need care! Gradually and playfully getting used to daily tooth brushing, which can initially be done with a cloth made of gauze or a soft baby toothbrush, is an important preventive measure for the long-term avoidance of tooth decay and its consequences. Toothpaste is not necessary in the first year of life, which cannot be spat out at this age and would be swallowed regularly. That is why the supply of the trace element fluoride, which is useful for preventing tooth decay, should not be made with toothpaste, because the small body regularly absorbs far too high amounts of fluoride with possible negative effects. The precisely dosed fluoroid intake with a tablet prescribed by paediatricians is effective and safe as a preventive measure.


Child Health Foundation

discontinued October 18, 2019