Parents blame teething for all kinds of symptoms, from fever to fussiness. Historically, teething has been thought to cause illnesses like seizures, cholera, and even insanity. In Victorian England, teething was listed as the cause of death for thousands of children each year.

And the treatments for teething were equally preposterous. Teething treatments ranged from eating rabbit brains to applying lead, mercury, and leeches to the gums. Modern medicine has come a long way, hasn’t it?

Or has it? It’s not uncommon for grandparents of teething infants nowadays to suggest placing a little whiskey on the gums to help ease the pain. And among some millennial parents, putting amber necklaces on infants to help with teething pain is all the rage.

If your infant or toddler is extremely fussy or has symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, congestion, or body rash, the cause may not be teething. In these cases, seek the advice of your child’s doctor.

But it’s probably teething if your child has directly related symptoms, including:

  • drooling
  • biting
  • mouthing
  • mild irritability


Here are five safe, doctor-recommended teething treatments to try, plus a few to avoid.

1. Teething Rings

Teething youngsters seem to get relief when gnawing on something hard or soft, to apply pressure to the gums. Cold items are usually very effective, but don’t freeze the rings completely.

If you use teething rings, make sure they don’t contain phthalates or bisphenol A (BPA), as both of these can be toxic. Silicone, 100 percent rubber, or latex toys are safer.

Also, don’t use teething rings that contain liquids. These are prone to leak when punctured by baby teeth, and have been linked to a variety of problems like infections.

2. Washcloths

Putting a damp washcloth in the fridge is an easy way to make a do-it-yourself teething toy. It’s safe, easy, and inexpensive.

3. Fingers

Try rubbing your child’s gums with your clean fingers, or letting them chew on your fingers if their teeth haven’t come in yet. This is another way to relieve their teething discomfort.

This trick has limitations because you can’t do it 24 hours a day. But it’s especially helpful to try just before breast-feeding.

4. Pacifiers

Many parents don’t like the thought of using a pacifier, but it can be very helpful for teething infants. If you use one, make sure it’s not secured around the child’s neck. Cases of strangulation have been reported.

5. Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen

These pain relievers should be used as a last resort. They are usually given at bedtime, when it’s difficult to distract the child. Make sure you are using the correct dose for your child’s weight. These should be used for no more than a few days at a time.

What to Avoid

Avoid topical medications with benzocaine or other topical anesthetics. These are usually applied to the gums, but can cause serious problems. They can lead to methomoglobinemia, a condition that causes very low oxygen concentrations in the child.

Also don’t give your child teething biscuits or cookies. They can break off and cause your child to choke.

Parents shouldn’t dip a teething ring or pacifier in sugar or honey. Honey in a child under 12 months can cause botulism. Sugar can cause cavities in the growing teeth.

The Takeaway

Remember, we don’t live in Victorian England, so teething won’t kill your infant. It won’t even cause cholera. But it’s still certainly a pain in the gums! Try using the treatments listed above for relief.

Whatever you do, avoid using leeches.