Objective: Parents ascribe many infant symptoms to teething, despite little evidence to support such an attribution. We report current parental beliefs about teething and its management in a suburban Australian setting.
Methodology: A written questionnaire was given to all English-speaking parents consecutively attending infant hearing testing sessions in one Melbourne municipality between August and October 1997. Approximately 90% of Victorian infants attend these sessions.
Results: Parents of 92 infants (mean age 9.9 months) completed questionnaires (97% response rate). Only one believed that teething causes no problems. Most (70-85%) believed that teething causes fever, pain, irritability, sleep disturbance, mouthing/biting, drooling and red cheeks; 35-55% reported nappy rash, 'sooking', ear pulling, feeding problems, runny nose, loose stools, and infections; and a few (< 15%) reported smelly urine, constipation, colic or convulsions. Symptoms reported for a parent's own infant correlated almost perfectly with symptoms believed to be experienced by infants generally (r = 0.97, P < 0.001). Amount of infant distress when teething correlated with more 'difficult' infant temperament (r = 0.25, P < 0.05), and longer duration of symptoms per tooth correlated with parent distress (r = 0.26, P < 0. 05). Paracetamol (60%) and topical analgesia (55%) were commonly used remedies. Parents diagnose teething more by the presence of 'teething symptoms' (65%) than by palpable (43%) or visible (36%) tooth eruption.
Conclusion: Teething is a distressing but ill-defined phenomenon reported by almost all parents of young children, and most use some form of medication to manage it. Most symptoms are minor and relate to discomfort rather than physical illness, but a substantial minority still ascribes potentially serious symptoms to teething.