Friday, June 26, 2009


By M. Cissy Majebe, L.Ac., & Karen Litton, L.Ac.

Cutting teeth is a rite of passage for all babies. The reaction to this experience varies from child to child. It can be an uncomfortable process for the child and the entire family.

Most cases of teething cause mild discomfort to the child, and some sleepless nights for the child and/or parents. In rare cases, a fever can develop that would require attention.

The channels that pass through the gums are related to the Stomach and Large Intestine Meridians in Chinese Medicine. Interestingly, many babies stop eating when they are getting close to teething -- a natural reaction to clear out the digestive system.

If a child has food stagnation in his stomach when teething starts, there will be more distress for the child when the teeth push through. The extra heat associated with the food stagnation in the stomach combines with the heat in the gums to create discomfort for the child during teething.

With teething, there can be an increase in the following symptoms: sore gums, drooling, wakefulness, irritability, mild temperature, diarrhea with foul-smelling stools, and sometimes a poor appetite just before and during teething.

In treatment, if there is heat, then the practitioner will bring down the heat and help clear the accumulation in the stomach. Acupuncture can also effectively reduce the heat and inflammation in the gums.

There are actions you as a parent can take at home to diminish your child’s discomfort. One of these is the stimulation of certain acupressure points, such as the following:
  • Large Intestine 4: located between the thumb and the first finger, on the mound created when you squeeze the thumb to the hand.
  • Stomach 40: located half way down the outer leg between the knee and ankle, about an inch off the shin bone.
  • Stomach 44: in the webbing between the second third toes.
These points can help take the heat out of the gums, Stomach, and Intestines, thus relieving the child’s discomfort.

There are also herbal formulas and essential oils that can ease the child’s teeth discomfort. One of these is lavender oil. For those sleepless nights, rubbing lavender oil on the child’s stomach can be soothing. In addition, the lavender oil can be rubbed on the above mentioned points or chest. Just this oil’s essence can bring relaxation.

There are also herbal pills, one of which is Suan Zao Ren, which can help with those children, or parents, having difficulty sleeping. Suan Zao Ren also comes as a powder or a tincture.