Skip to content

Oral Care

Teething vs. Illness: How to Tell the Difference

Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News

April 10, 2000 (Atlanta) -- Pediatricians and parents have long disagreed on which of a child's symptoms are caused by teething and which symptoms could indicate a serious illness.

A new study helps confirm what the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has said, that fevers greater than 102°F should not be attributed to any tooth problem, including teething. It also helps dispel worldwide folk beliefs that diarrhea is associated with teething.

"Before caregivers attribute any infants' signs or symptoms of a potentially serious illness to teething, other possible causes must be ruled out," says lead author Michael L. Macknin, MD, of the department of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. His paper appears in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Macknin and colleagues followed 125 babies ages 3 to 6 months for eight months. During the period, parents kept a daily log that included their child's temperatures, tooth eruptions, and a checklist of 18 symptoms. All illnesses, medications, and immunizations were also recorded.

The teething period was defined as the eight-day period beginning four days before a tooth comes through the gum and extending three days afterward.

Of the infants who completed the study, more than 35% had no symptoms during their eight-day teething periods, says Macknin. Others had decreased appetite for solid foods, biting, drooling, ear rubbing, gum rubbing, irritability, rash on face, sucking, and abnormal temperature and wakefulness. Biting, drooling, gum rubbing, irritability, and sucking occurred with greater frequency during teething.

Elevated temperature -- but less than 102°F -- was an indicator of teething, but only the day before and the day that the tooth actually came through the gum.

Noting that many people believe teething can cause diarrhea, Macknin says his group found only a weak association between the two.

After reviewing the study, Zuhair Sayany, DMD, assistant professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine in Philadelphia, tells WebMD the study shows that many symptoms thought to be caused by teething may actually instead be caused by a serious illness. Sayany is also on staff at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

Get the latest Oral Health newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Never
(0)
Good
(1-3)
Better
(4-6)
Best
(7)

You are currently

Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

close up of woman sticking out tongue
Sores, discoloration, bumps and more.
toothbrushes
10 secrets to a brighter smile.
 
Veneer smile
Before and after.
Woman checking her bite in mirror
Why dental care is important.
 

Woman dissatisfied with granola bar
Slideshow
woman with jaw pain
Quiz
 
eroded front teeth
Slideshow
brushing teeth
Video
 

Variety shades of tea
Slideshow
mouth and dental instruments
Article
 
Closeup of a happy young guy brushing his teeth
Tool
womans smile
Video