Last Wednesday, I attended a training workshop hosted by Pfizer titled ‘The Myths and Truths about Teething’. The talk was given by Dr Angela Gilhespie, a dentist.
I thought this sounded rather interesting as I’ve heard plenty patients talk about teething, as well as friends and even my own parents. I didn’t understand how there could be myths about it. Until Dr Gilhespie opened up my eyes.
It turns out there is no such thing as teething. You read that right. There is no such thing as teething. Tooth eruption is not strongly associated with any significant symptoms (such as fever, vomiting, loss of appetite, crying, restlessness). Parents say how their child cries due to the pain of teething – but, there is no nerve supply and therefore, no pain involved!
The biggest myth is that teething is a cause of serious illness. One-tenth of all children are reported to die from teething-related symptoms however these deaths are caused by the remedies used unnecessarily for teething in the first place, such as opioids and alkaloids!
Ultimately, when a tooth erupts, there is no cutting of the gum, no wound to bleed, no wound infection, no pain, no fever, and no systemic upset! The redness and inflammation you see on the gums is due to plaque build up because babies are simply being given too much sugar and their mouths are not being cleaned adequately!
So, you may ask, why is my baby displaying these symptoms – because they truly may have fever, upset stomachs, etc.. It simply comes down to correlation and coincidence. When we are pregnant, our bodies’ own circulating antibodies are present in the bloodstream of the fetus. Once a baby is born, these circulating antibodies remain in their body until around 4-6 months of age. This just so happens to coincide with when ‘teething’ starts. At this stage, once the circulating antibodies have left the baby’s system, the level of immunity of the baby is at its lowest point. This means that baby is more susceptible to other diseases and is simply getting sick.
The fever, upset tummy, crying, restlessness, loss of appetite (I could go on forever) are because baby is sick with something else – not with teething! Most commonly, these symptoms are caused by unrelated systemic illnesses, ear infection and tooth decay. By thinking it is teething, we are simply delaying the diagnosis of our babies!
One of the most common causes of the symptoms mistaken for teething is Primary Herpetic Gingivostomatitis or cold sores. By looking at the baby’s upper palate, you will most likely see fluid-filled clear vesicles which are indicative of a herpes infection. There is no other way you would know. A blood test (HSV Type 1) can be done to confirm this. If you’re wondering how a baby might get herpes, think of the number of people who lovingly give the baby kisses on the lips.. Herpes is extremely contagious and spreads very easily.
We find that bottle-fed babies are ‘sicker’ and this is simply because they have fewer antibodies because they aren’t getting any through breastmilk.
The problem with all of this is that babies are being medicated unnecessarily. Systemic analgesics and topical anaesthetics are being given to babies regularly by up to 76% of moms, according to a 2010 study by Owais. Many over the counter teething remedies have dangerous ingredients known to cause disease and illness in babies and young children!
In a 1979 study by Swann, it was found that out of 50 ‘teething’ children, 48 of them had a medical condition and 1 had bacterial meningitis! If treated inappropriately for ‘teething’, this baby would have passed away.
I urge all parents, and soon-to-be parents to read up on this and educate themselves. We need to change the thought pattern from our parents and realize the truth.
Dr Gilhespie released a book called ‘The ABCs of Children’s Teeth’. Please check it out, it’s extremely interesting. You can also have a look at her website. This post is in no way sponsored – I am just intrigued at how everything I thought I knew was incorrect!