After my daughter Ilse entered the toddler years, I thought we were done with teething: the long, irritable days of drooling, gnawing on her fingers, and a refusal to eat her regular foods. When Ilse was an infant, I remembered her pediatrician telling us to begin taking her to the dentist at one-year-old, which I thought was a little ludicrous. Wasn’t one-year-old a little young for a dental visit? Being the obedient parents that we were, we took her to the dentist. Our dentist was happy to take Ilse on as a patient. The best thing our family dentist did for us was provide us with a handy teething chart, which depicted the kinds of teeth that arrive at different ages. Guess what? Teeth arrive during the toddler years, too, specifically molars.
Fast forward to this past weekend, Ilse, now two-and-a-half, was more irritable than usual. She didn’t have much of an appetite, and she was gnawing on her fingers. These symptoms were also accompanied by an elevated temperature (just about 99 degrees), and a runny nose. My husband and I thought it was just a cold because her temperature returned to normal after 24 hours. However, the irritability and gnawing still persisted. Ilse kept saying she had an “owie.” When we asked Ilse to point to the “owie,” she pointed to her nose or her foot. Her foot was fine. Her nose was nearly clear, as we (he) had sucked out all the snot all weekend. Last night, it occurred to my husband that maybe Ilse was teething. When Ilse woke up sobbing this morning, we asked her if her mouth had an “owie.” She pointed to inside her mouth. We took a flashlight and looked closely, and saw a molar poking out at the back of her mouth. For our peace of mind, I kept her home from preschool today.
Dealing with a teething toddler can be just as tiring as dealing with a teething infant because the teething diagnosis is not obvious. It took us all weekend and (lots of patience with a sobbing child) to figure it out, but the clues were there: drooling, gnawing on her fingers, a non-existent appetite, etc. We’re addressing the discomfort with over-the-counter pain medication, soft foods, and cuddles. So far, these remedies seem to be working. Ilse’s ability to communicate with us has also been a savior because she can tell us that she is hurting. If the symptoms worsen, we will schedule an appointment with her pediatrician. Ilse will have all of her baby teeth soon enough. Like other growing pains, this, too, will pass for all of us.
Here are a few resources on teething, but teething growth and discomfort will vary for every child. Your best resource is always your pediatrician.