How can I help ease the pain of my teething toddler?

Q: My two year old daughter just staring getting her molars in and I have tried the pain reliever medication that I used before but its not working. Shes not into chewing or biting on anything she won't eat or drink anything like she normally does. Any solutions? She's cranky and very mean but I don't blame her. Can someone help?

A: If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know that mouth pain can make you miserable, so it’s no wonder that those pointy teeth poking through tender gums can make babies cranky. Have you tried using an over-the-counter infant-formula pain-relieving oral gel? Rubbing a fast-acting topical anesthetic on your baby’s gums might provide the quickest relief. 


Some babies will gladly use teething rings that have been chilled in the refrigerator to soothe their sore gums. The cold plastic helps numb the gums, and when a baby chews on the firm surface of the teething ring, it puts pressure on the gums. Both actions help alleviate pain. If your baby doesn’t like the texture of a teething ring, she might be willing to chew on a cold washcloth, and this will produce similar results.


If your doctor has given you the go-ahead to give your baby an infant pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin), you can use these medications to help ease your baby’s teething pain. Infant ibuprofen might be more effective for teething pain because in addition to reducing pain, it also helps reduce swelling of irritated, inflamed tissues, including the gums. A baby’s body temperature can rise a bit during teething, and that can contribute to her pain, irritability, and reluctance to eat. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen help reduce fever and alleviate pain. Ibuprofen has the advantage of requiring less frequent dosing. If your baby’s teething pain is interfering with her ability to eat or drink, your pediatrician might recommend alternating the two medications.


Fortunately, teething pain isn’t constant in babies—it seems to come and go, giving babies some welcome relief. But if your baby seems to be in a great deal of pain, or if she refuses to eat and drink for more than a couple of hours, it’s time to take her to her pediatrician for a checkup.