Teething, superstitions, and medical misconceptions

The onset of teething represents one of the major milestones in the development of children and one of those affairs that come with different superstitious beliefs and medical misconceptions as far as the Nigerian, and perhaps, the rest of African societies are concerned. It is also not impossible for different parts of the world to have different beliefs and misconceptions and some might even traverse multiple continents.

The teething process in some children starts as early as when there are still in the gestational stage. In actual fact, some babies are born with teeth, although this is not quite common and represents one of the few outliers as far as teething is concerned. The more common ones is for children to start teething between 4 to 6 months after birth. My firstborn started teething just around 4 months while my most recent birth just brought out his first teeth some days after 6 months. Yet, some children do not start bringing out teeth until around a year after their births, representing another outlier.

While the onset of teething varies from baby to baby, most children complete their teething process at age 3. At this time, the entire first set of teeth, otherwise known as milk teeth, is complete. The milk teeth are usually 20 in number and they gradually start being replaced by permanent teeth between the age of 6 and 7. Between the age of 14 and 21, many individuals would have successfully shed their milk teeth and grown complete permanent adult teeth.

The teething process is a biological phenomenon that brings a certain level of discomfort and pain even as an adult. It is normal to see babies exhibit certain symptoms when they are in the process of bringing out teeth. These symptoms range from drooling saliva from the mouth, itching of the gum which is usually indicated by babies trying to put objects or their hands in their mouths, painful swellings on the gum, fever, and so on. There are a wide variety of proven recommendations to tackle many of these problems so as to ease the teething process and make parenthood easier.

Saliva drooling, one of the issues with teething in babies. By Daniel Schwen - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7718008

The superstition

Usually, the most widely distributed and medical recognized order of appearance of teeth in children puts the lower central incisors first, the upper central incisors second, upper lateral incisors, lower lateral incisors, upper first molar, lower first molar, upper canines, lower canines, the lower second molar, and upper second molar respectively.

While this is considered normal, some exceptions are known to occur. For example, some babies might bring out their upper central incisors before the lower central ones. While this constitutes no medical problem, it is generally frowned at in the society here. Babies with upper central incisors as their first teeth are considered weird with some supernatural abilities. It is generally believed that whatever such babies say when they start talking will always come into the pass, especially when it comes to cursing.

Hence, many parents whose babies bring out the upper central incisors as their first teeth are usually ashamed of showing such babies to the eyes of the public. In old practices in some parts of the world, such babies are considered bad omens to society and usually sacrificed to gods. While the killing of babies has been criminalised by laws, many parents still go as far as trying to remove their babies teeth whenever their first teeth are the upper central incisors.

The Medical Misconceptions

Like I pointed out earlier, teething comes with certain challenges that can make babies really uncomfortable and give nightmares to parents. The pains and fevers that are associated with teething in some babies can easily be dispelled by ibuprofen, paracetamol, and other relevant drugs as recommended by medical professionals. Teethers are recommended the gum itching as these represent something that can be chewed on to soothe the itching.

One major widely held belief about teething is that it causes diarrhoea in babies and toddlers. This has not been medically proven by research. Usually, babies try to put objects in their mouth in attempts to soothe their itching gums. Some of these objects might be housing pathogens and allowing babies to put them in their mouths might lead to different infections, including diarrhoea.

There is absolutely no way teething could have caused diarrhoea unless there is an aspect of the process that makes the normal flora of the body to become virulent or allows diarrhoea causing pathogen to enters the body system. Even though this misconception is widely held, it can be said to be due to unhygienic practices by parents and not the teething process itself. Many parents whose babies have teethed succwithout diarrhoea would give credence to this assertion.

One-stop solution to all teething problems

The various problems associated with teething in babies are being capitalised on by profit seeking drug manufacturers. They manufacture some drugs as one stop solution to all teething problems. The components of these drugs largely include paracetamol or ibuprofen in addition to sedatives. What these drugs do is to relieve babies of the likely pains associated with teeth eruptions and the sedative component will lure them into sleep. Babies do not throw tantrums when they sleep, right?

Unfortunately, many folks, including the educated ones, fall for this scams called teething drugs and buy them at their expensive prices. I remember vividly selling some of these teething mixtures [piccan, bonabe, etc] while working as a pharmacy technician few years ago.


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source: pxfuel

TL:DR

Teething process in contemporary African society is characterised with certain superstitious beliefs and medical misconceptions. One of the superstitious beliefs is that babies that bring out upper central incisors instead of lower central incisors as their first teeth are weird and dangerous to the society. It is believed that whatever negative they say when they start talking would come to pass. Hence, such babies are usually sacrificed or their parents secretly try to remove the teeth in order to protect such babies from the eye of the public.

One of the medical misconceptions, also, is that the teething process causes diarrhea and this remains medically unproven. The itching of gums associated with teething makes babies always want to put objects into their mouths. If allowed in an unhygienic environment, such babies would end up getting pathogens into their systems and this has been touted to be the leading cause of diarrhea associated with teething.

What do you think?

Thank you all for reading.

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