Providing mothers with information on managing teething symptoms reduced medication use


The appearance of primary teeth ( teething) is a natural process  yet for many years it has been associated with a range of health problems in infants and young children. It also causes worry an anxiety for parents.   The authors aimed to assess the impact of providing  information on teething and its management  as part of a randomized controlled trial to prevent early childhood caries.

What did they do

Mothers in the intervention arm of the a caries prevention study received  three rounds of printed oral health promotion material related to teething and its management, provided at enrolment during pregnancy and when children were 6 and 12 months old. The last two information packages were mailed to the mother’s home address. Those in the control group did not receive the information.  Data related to symptoms and management of teething were collected at the time of assessment for early childhood caries, when the children were 20 ± 2.5 (SD) months old

They found

Of the 649 expectant mothers enrolled in the study, 441 completed the ‘Child’s oral health’ questionnaire.

  • no significant differences in teething symptoms reported by mothers in the intervention (n = 232) and control (n = 209) groups.
  • 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.

They concluded

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.

Plutzer K, Spencer AJ, Keirse MJ. How first-time mothers perceive and deal with teething symptoms: a randomized controlled trial. Child Care Health Dev. 2012 Mar;38(2):292-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01215.x. Epub 2011 Mar 6.PubMed PMID: 21375564


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Derek Richards

Derek Richards is a specialist in dental public health, Director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry and Specialist Advisor to the Scottish Dental Clinical Effectiveness Programme (SDCEP) Development Team. A former editor of the Evidence-Based Dentistry Journal and chief blogger for the Dental Elf website until December 2023. Derek has been involved with a wide range of evidence-based initiatives both nationally and internationally since 1994. Derek retired from the NHS in 2019 remaining as a part-time senior lecturer at Dundee Dental School until the end of 2023.

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