While you might make a big deal about the first few teeth that appear in your child's mouth, the 10th or 20th teeth might not seem as memorable. You might not even notice when they start to come in, which typically is around age 2. But molars and back teeth can still cause a toddler discomfort, a fact that's easy to forget when they're not front and center like the first teeth are. Pain from cutting molars might be the reason behind some toddler crankiness, so treating it can help make both your days more pleasant.
Cold helps numb the skin, so gently rubbing something cold over the swollen gum can help relieve pain before the molar pops through. Cold will also reduce swelling, which causes most of the pain of a new tooth breaking through. Ice pops introduce cold to the area in a pleasant way; make them yourself out of juice or other liquids if you'd rather not buy the sugar-laden commercial version. Chilled or frozen teething rings can also help. Rub ice on your child's gums, but only briefly, because you don't want to damage the tissue. Use small pieces so your child won't choke on them.
Oral numbing medicines can also help relieve the pain of the gum before the tooth appears. Run the gel into the area gently to avoid damaging the gum. Use just a little; gels often don't taste good and using too much can decrease your toddler's gag reflex, which could make him more likely to choke on foods. Watch him carefully when he eats if you're using gel to soothe his gum pain. A toddler can also develop an allergy to the gel. Watch for signs such as increased swelling, rash or wheezing.
Oral pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen also help relieve pain. Follow the directions on the label for dosing and don't exceed the limits. High doses of pain relievers can cause side effects such as stomach upset or excessive bleeding with ibuprofen or liver damage with acetaminophen. Toddlers should not take aspirin, even baby aspirin, unless your doctor recommends it. Use pain relievers in conjunction with other techniques to relieve pain and swelling and don't use for more than a day or two without talking to your child's pediatrician.
Recognizing a Problem
Toddlers can't always tell you what hurts. Signs that teeth might be giving your little one something to cry about include drooling, an aversion to chewing, biting hard on objects or general irritability. Your toddler might also point to his mouth or pull on his ears, if he's able to localize the source of discomfort. Experts differ on whether teething causes fever or diarrhea, but parents often notice these signs, so don't discount them if they always occur when your toddler cuts another tooth.