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Soothing Teething in Babies: How TCM Can Help

A baby’s teeth will poke through their gums after four months of age. Pain and discomfort are common signs of teething in babies.

A baby sitting in a baby chair while holding a toothbrush and placing it in his mouth

Teething in babies can start as early as three months of age. The first tooth is likely to push through a baby’s gum line between the ages of four to seven months. Most toddlers will have a set of 20 teeth by the time they turn three.

However, teething can be an uncomfortable experience for babies and their parents. One possible reason is that it happens simultaneously as the natural immunity a baby initially receives from its mother diminishes. During this period, a baby will become vulnerable to infection, which is why the signs of teething in babies may be confused with those of minor illnesses. 

Read on to learn more about teething signs and the steps you can take as parents to ensure your baby goes through the natural process smoothly.

The Common Signs of Teething in Babies

Baby boy with a facial rash being carried by a woman
A facial rash is a notable sign of teething in babies.

Sometimes, a baby will not have any pain or other apparent teething signs. Under normal circumstances, your baby may: 

  • Be irritable 
  • Dribble and drool more than usual 
  • Constantly rub their ears 
  • Gnaw and chew on various objects 
  • Struggle to have a good night’s sleep 
  • Have a facial rash 
  • Have flushed cheeks
  • Have a mild fever that’s below 38˚C 
  • Have redness and soreness around the area in which a tooth is coming through 

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a baby’s body is believed to be susceptible to Yin (passive energy) and Yang (active energy) Deficiencies. “Babies have a pure yang body constitution, which can cause a fever to develop easily. However, be mindful that a low-grade fever is classified as “fake Heat” and can’t be treated with cooling foods and herbal medications. Fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended as a relief,” explains Eu Yan Sang physician Jolene Chong.  

How to Alleviate the Signs of Teething in Babies 

Take comfort in knowing that clinical and alternative remedies are available to help your child navigate this phase of life with less discomfort. 

Teething ring 

Babies can be given a safe chewing device called a teething ring to ease their pain and discomfort. Cool the device in the fridge before giving it to your baby. Doing this can have a soothing effect on your baby’s gums. 

Avoid putting a teething ring in the freezer as it can damage the gums when chewed on.

Never tie a teething ring around your baby’s neck, as it’s a choking hazard.

Easy-to-eat foods 

A baby six months or older can also be fed bread crusts, breadsticks, or soft fruits and vegetables. Refrain from giving your baby rusks, as most of them contain sugar. Eating too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, even in babies who are teething. 

Over-the-counter medications and gels 

A teething gel is different from an oral pain relief gel. The latter isn’t suitable for use by children. The former contains a mild local anaesthetic and can only be purchased from a pharmacy.  

If your baby is experiencing pain, you may consider giving them sugar-free medications that relieve pain. Paracetamol and ibuprofen can relieve teething signs in babies aged three months or older.  

Herbal remedies 

To alleviate a low-grade fever, make a patch by grounding goldthread root (huang lian, 黄连), evodia fruit (wu zhu yu, 吴茱萸), and borneol (bing pian, 冰片) into a powder and combining them with vinegar. It can be applied to your baby’s soles. Remove the patch in the morning when your baby wakes up.  

Dilute an An Shen Jun Ging powder (安神镇惊散) formula made from multiple herbal ingredients in lukewarm water. The solution can be consumed to cool down a fever. Though, the formula is only safe for consumption by babies who are aged one or older

If your baby salivates excessively during teething, you can give them a herbal beverage prepared with ginger, medicated leaven (shen qu, 神曲), and rock sugar. Chewable candy made by steaming and cooling atractylodes (bai zhu, 白术) and rock sugar can also help. 

Paediatric tuina 

TCM also believes that the Kidneys are responsible for the health of our teeth and bones. Taking steps to enhance the organ system and the Liver can ensure proper teeth development. 

The stomach meridian is also located in the mouth and gums. Keep a close eye on what you feed your baby. You can massage acupressure points to help your baby transition through the teething phase with ease.

A few of the acupoints that a licensed practitioner can massage on your baby include

  • Cheng jiang (GV24, 承浆) 
  • Ren zhong (GV26, 人中) 
  • Yong quan (KI1, 涌泉)  
  • He gu (LI4, 合谷) 
  • Jia che (ST6, 颊车) 
  • Xia guan (ST7, 下关) 
  • Si heng wen (四横纹) 
  • Tian zhu gu (天柱骨) 

Teething in babies is a temporary yet highly uncomfortable experience. Alternative treatment and herbal options are generally safe. It’s advisable to consult a TCM practitioner beforehand for a proper diagnosis and evaluation of your baby’s body constitution.

References

  1. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 2020. Your Infant is Teething: Know the Signs and Symptoms. [online] [Accessed 23 August 2022]
  2. National Health Service. Baby teething symptoms. [online] [Accessed 23 August 2022]
  3. National Health Service. Tips for helping your teething baby. [online] [Accessed 23 August 2022]

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