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Annette Faamausili, September 21 2017

The truth about Teething

So I wanted to put together an article on the real truth about teething.

Historical Beliefs

Long ago, medical professionals actually thought that teething was a major cause of death. Yes you did read that right, I did say death. It is even listed as the cause of death on many infant death certificates before the mid-19th century.

Of course this was completely untrue. Lack of medical knowledge meant that teething was blamed for serious illnesses, derangement and death. The reason for it was pure coincidence.

Children begin to cut teeth around 6 months of age and the process continues well into childhood. That is a considerable period of time for confusion to occur. So teething was often confused with the real cause of death or illness.

Before the era of modern medicine, infancy was a dangerous time that a lot of children did not survive for various reasons. Because their was a lack in knowledge about how the human body worked and the illnesses that affected it, there was a lot of guesswork.

It seems that when a doctor was not sure what was causing an illness, they blamed the symptoms on teething. This began a long list of teething symptoms that were often untrue. Some of those wives tales have even survived until today.

In Victorian times, doctors were known to slit the gums of teething babies in the hope the teeth would pop through quicker.

The Truth About Teething

So, here are the real truths about teething and some interesting facts that you may not have known…


We have all seen a distinct increase in dribbling when our little ones are teething. But do you know why this happens?

While teething the body produces more saliva as a natural response to swollen and hot gums. The extra saliva is produced to try and cool the gums down and reduce the swelling. The amount your baby drools may vary, some babies may soak through an entire top in a matter of hours and others will hardly drool at all.

Change In Stools

During teething, you might notice a difference in the appearance of your little one’s stool. Not that you make a habit of examining poop, but it does kind of go with the parenting territory!

Because your baby’s body is producing more saliva, they will also swallow more saliva. The enzymes in the saliva often react with the stool to create a loose and slimy mucous-like stool. It is often green in colour and has a distinctive metallic smell.

Sore bottom

You might also notice an increase in nappy rash or a sore, red bottom. This is because the enzymes in the saliva can be an irritant, causing inflammation and irritation on the skin - hence a sore bottom.

Also babies that drool a lot are more likely to be dehydrated. Therefore, their urine can become stronger and more concentrated and lead to a sore and chapped bottom. Ensure you keep your baby well hydrated during teething by offering regular drinks of water.

Sore ears 

Did you know that the nerve pathways in the gums are shared with nerve pathways in the ear? That can mean your child gets irritation and soreness in their ears as well as the gums. This is the reason that they rub their ears a lot when they are teething.

Also, excessive saliva produced during teething can easily become trapped in the Eustachian tube (the auditory tube within your ear). Due to the tube’s narrow, kinked nature it can easily become blocked. If you suspect an ear infection or notice excessive ear poking and head shaking, seek advice from your doctor and get their ears checked.

Tooth Ache

Pain and swelling usually occurs before the tooth cuts through. So the tooth cutting itself is not as painful to the child as the lead up and usually only lasts 2-3 days. 


While broken sleep is not a direct symptom of teething, you might find that your child's sleep is affected by these other side effects. Usually their sleep patterns will return to normal after their teeth have cut through. But if they don't and your child contiues to wake frequently it may be they have picked up  wrong sleep associations or are transitioning through a sleep regression.

So there you have it, lots of interesting facts about teething! I hope it helped shed some light on what is going on with our little one’s body during the teething phase. It can be a difficult time and you can feel so helpless when your child is in pain. But it will pass.

Then you have a whole new problem to deal with, shiny new teeth that love to bite things!

Written by

Annette Faamausili

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