Being a parent for the first time comes with its own new experiences, concerns and misconceptions.
This week I have highlighted on one of the most crucial stages in a baby’s life, ‘teething’ which will aid parents to have a better and broader understanding on this subject.
Here’s the eight edition of oral health myths and their realities.
Myth 1: Baby teething causes fever.
The truth is, many studies have shown that teething causes, at most, a mild temperature elevation. If the baby has a true fever (above 38 celsius), it is unlikely to be caused by teething, especially if it continues for a number of days.
Myth 2: In Tanzania and elsewhere, parents or communities associate baby teething with a number of health challenges including: loss of appetite, crying, increased salivation, drooling, diarrhoea, boils, runny-nose, conjunctivitis, thumb sucking, gum rubbing, diaper rash, general irritability and some day-time restlessness and/or vomiting.
Baby teething begins when other changes in the children’s immune system, growth and development are also setting in around the age of six months and due to maternal antibodies fading down as well as exposure to a wide variety of childhood illnesses occurring.
Strong parental false beliefs associated with teething may interfere with the prompt diagnosis and management of a range of serious illnesses.
Therefore, there is a need to know the facts and the false beliefs attributed to teething. Medical and nursing professionals need to be given more information about teething to provide practical clarifications to concerned parents and caregivers.
Myth 3: At 6 months to 1 year, children are thought to be too old to not have any baby teeth.
Some children may not have teeth on their one year check-up but usually, the teeth will ultimately emerge in the mouth.
Myth 4: Teething disturbances may not be treated.
The common teething myths fool parents. If the child has any severe symptoms, they should not be attributed to teething disturbances.
If the child has a problem thought to be related to baby teething, parents are encouraged to get an opinion from an oral health professional.
Myth 5: Rub alcohol into the baby’s gums to ease the pain and discomfort caused by teething.
Children in general should not be given alcohol because their liver is not sufficiently developed to handle alcohol.
Myth 6: Parents are made to believe that un-emerged canine tooth buds (Nylon Teeth) within the baby jaws cause a number of illnesses including diarrhoea; vomiting; fever; and growth retardation in children.
It is further propagated that removal or gorging out the suspected infected tooth bud is necessary to cure the respective diseases.
The usually prominently shiny elevated canine tooth buds at the corners of infants’ jaws are often the most affected baby teeth for tooth bud removal.
The removed tooth buds are not fully mineralised, appear jelly-like and therefore named Nylon Teeth.
Myth 7: Todate, some babies born with teeth are still tragically mistreated and even put to death in some cultures because they are thought to be evil spirits and/or bearing grave misfortune.
Teeth that are present in a newborn’s mouth are called natal teeth. Neonatal teeth, on the other hand, are teeth that come into the baby’s mouth in the first 30 days of life.
However, deviant emergence patterns of baby teeth do cause anxiety for the families. Neonates with prematurely emerged teeth must be managed carefully clinically.
Negative cultural attitudes towards natal teeth demand good parental counselling and vigilant management in relation to child protection as well as to banish myths that may be held.
The author is a lecturer of Dentistry at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences.