Dental News

Teething Mistakenly Blamed for Other Ills

Fri Oct 11,2002 10:45 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Despite research showing the contrary, many healthcare providers still attribute many baby ills to teething, Australian researchers report.

Dr. Melissa Wake and Kylie Hesketh of Royal Children’s Hospital in Australia write that recent reports have demonstrated teething only causes “minor and relatively infrequent symptoms.” However, the current study shows that a wide range of professionals–from nurses to pharmacists to pediatricians–still believe that teething can cause many symptoms including fever, infections and irritability.

In addition, many healthcare workers continue to recommend teething gels and acetaminophen to help ease a baby’s distress from teething, and more than half of responding pharmacists said they recommend sedatives to calm a teething child.

This disparity between beliefs about teething and reality could cause healthcare professionals to mistake other, potentially serious illnesses for teething, Wake and Hesketh report in Friday’s issue of the British Medical Journal.

“These beliefs may prevent professionals from effectively managing some of the common developmental issues of infancy and might lead to late diagnosis of important illness,” Wake and Hesketh write.

The findings are based on questionnaires submitted by a range of healthcare professionals who deal with children. Seventy-three pharmacists, 114 general practitioners, 88 pediatricians, 91 dentists and 98 nurses responded to the survey.

Pediatricians ascribed the least number of symptoms–three–to teething, while nurses attributed an average of 10 symptoms to children’s reactions to their first teeth. A total of 32 pharmacists and 19 dentists said they thought teething could cause fever, and up to 50% of people in all groups–except pediatricians–said teething could increase the risk of colds and ear infections.

Most respondents who said they believe teething produces symptoms attributed a wide range of ills to the process, including irritability, drooling, sleeping difficulties and red cheeks. Many nurses also said that they believe teething can lead to feeding problems, loose stools and smelly urine.

“Will these beliefs alter, now that we know how innocuous teething is?” Wake and Hesketh ask, in response to their findings.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 2002;325:814.