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How first-time mothers perceive and deal with teething symptoms: a randomized controlled trial


Kamila Plutzer, BDS, PhD, Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health, School of Dentistry, The University of Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia. E-mail:


Background  Teething, especially in their first child, continues to be a daunting problem for parents.

Objective  The objective of this paper was to assess the effects of providing first-time mothers with information about symptoms commonly associated with teething and ways to manage these.

Methods  In a randomized controlled trial to decrease the incidence of early childhood caries, we included information on teething as another issue in a child's oral health. Mothers in the intervention group received three rounds of printed information: at enrolment during pregnancy and when the child was 6 and 12 months old. Information on teething arrived when a child reached 6 months of age. Outcome assessment was at 20 ± 2.5 months of age. Data were complemented with a systematic search for evidence on teething symptoms and how to alleviate them in other populations.

Results  Of 649 expectant mothers enrolled in the study, 441 completed the ‘Child's oral health’ questionnaire. There were no significant differences in teething symptoms reported by mothers in the intervention (n= 232) and control (n= 209) groups. However, mothers in the intervention group were less likely to use topical and oral medications to manage teething problems (P < 0.03) and relied more on rubbing the gums to ease discomfort (P < 0.005) than mothers in the control group.

Conclusions  Providing mothers with information on how to address teething symptoms markedly reduced the use of medications for symptom relief. There is still need for better evidence, first, on what symptoms can or cannot be attributed to teething and, second, on what is effective in alleviating them.