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Serena Williams' Call for Help: What Every Parent Should Know About Teething


Celebrities use Twitter to connect with their fans—promoting their next project, sharing big news and, yes, throwing a little shade. Occasionally, though, a tweet reveals something deeply personal about your favorite star’s life. A case in point: tennis great Serena Williams’ plea for help with her baby’s teething.

“Nothing is working,” Williams told her followers in the Twitterverse, as she asked for advice on what to do. And, as might be expected with Twitter, she got hundreds of replies. Some of the advice she received was, well, inadvisable. But a few tweets came through with a perspective that every parent with a teething baby needs to know: Teething is normal—and it won’t last forever.

Your baby’s first teeth are breaking through gums never broken through before. That’s a small-scale trauma that can cause pain and discomfort, as well as appetite and sleep disruption. All of that and more is a recipe for irritability. It can happen each time a new tooth erupts, and then subside until the next tooth eruption. But it will all end once all the primary teeth are in at around age 3.

In the meantime, the best thing you can do for your baby during a teething episode is to help them be as comfortable as possible. Here are some tips.

Give them soft, cold items to chew. Teething children naturally chew or gnaw on items to reduce their discomfort. You can further numb the pain by giving them teething rings, pacifiers or similar soft plastic items that have been chilled. Avoid, however, freezing the items as this could burn the soft tissues around the mouth.

Massage their gums. One way to help counteract the pressure caused by teething, a major source of irritation, is to massage your little one’s gums with your finger (just be sure it’s clean). And fingers only: Contrary to an old wives’ tale, it’s harmful to rub alcohol or similar substances on the gums because, like extreme cold, it can burn the skin.

Administer pain relievers. If your doctor advises, give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever like ibuprofen in a dose appropriate for his or her age to help dull the pain. This should be given orally, not rubbed on the gums. Note that you should not apply any substances containing the numbing agent benzocaine to young children’s gums, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Whether you’re a tennis superstar like Serena Williams or you just meet up for doubles with friends on occasion, having a baby in the midst of teething can be stressful. But following these tips will help both your baby and you weather the storm.

If you would like more information about teething or other aspects of pediatric dental care, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”

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