Terrible Two’s: Parents and friends often use this phrase as though it were a dread disease. The term “terrible twos” has long been used to describe the changes that parents often observe in 2-year-old children.

What are the terrible two’s?

The Terrible Two's Are a Confusing Time for Toddlers.

The Terrible Two’s Might Have a Dental Cause.

Mayo Clinic describes the terrible two’s this way:

“A parent may perceive this age as terrible because of the rapid shifts in a child’s mood and behaviors — and the difficulty of dealing with them. One minute your child might be clinging to you, and the next he or she is running in the opposite direction.”

Impossible Moods or Dental Pain

In this blog, Dentistry for Children investigates the combination of the “Terrible Two’s” and two-year molars. Yes, the molar teeth also appear at approximately the two-year mark. Is there a relationship?

Terrible Two’s:  Revelations from Parents and Grandparents

The following confessions reveal the difficulty that parents and grandparents have in dealing with children ranging from approximately 18 months to 34 months.

The Grandparent

One Grandmother reports:

“My biggest problem is she hits, scratches, and will try to bite you. I have held her hands and it seems like she gets it. Then she goes right back into little monster mode five minutes later! I am soooo tired and confused.”

Mother and Daughter (The Abuser)

A mother describes this problem with her daughter. It seems that the mother runs a daycare center. There is one small baby who comes to the center 3 days a week. The problem: My daughter just cannot stop “pummeling” her.

“I spend my entire day, aside from naptime, keeping my daughter from hugging the little one until she’s knocked her over. Sometimes, she sits on her. And then we catch her leaning back on the baby. Other times, she pushes her out of the way to get at a toy.”

The “Little Red Headed Devil”

Even Two Year Olds Have Their Good Moments. (He Won’t Bite.)

Then there is the little red-headed boy who throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Mom says that she sometimes takes him with her to the grocery store.

“If he sees a toy or a piece of candy, he yells and screams and throws himself onto the floor. Then he holds his breath until he starts turning red. I’m afraid he going to pass out.”

What is So Terrible?

Let’s face it. On the one hand, it might be terrible for you. In the turmoil, you drop the breakfast tray on the floor. You smash your thumb with a hammer or you’re late for work.

On the other hand, it not so terrible for your two-year-old. He or she has nothing else planned for the day. 

Terrible Two’s”:  Perfectly Normal

In this blog we might seem to be straying away from dentistry. But it is no coincidence that your child is experiencing dental as well as emotional trauma at this time.  Let’s look a little deeper at the trials and tribulations of being two, and remember all this is going on while your child is cutting his largest, bulkiest, sharpest teeth.  Dental pain is exquisite, and even you might get a little moody with the pain of a giant tooth cutting through your jaw and tender gums.

On the Two Year Old’s Menu:  A Little More Psychology With a Side-Dish of Dentistry

Most physicians would agree with Jay L. Hoecker, MD, Mayo Clinic. He believes that the so-called terrible two’s are a normal part of a child’s development.

These are the “changes that parents often observe in 2-year-old children. A parent may perceive this age as terrible because of the rapid shifts in a child’s mood and behaviors — and the difficulty of dealing with them.”

Mayo Clinic professionals also state that “Life can be frustrating for toddlers. Though eager to be independent, young children can’t always move as swiftly as they’d like or clearly express their needs. They also tend to have trouble dealing with limits, compromise, and disappointment. This can lead to tantrums and misbehavior. (And so can sharp, jabbing constant, unrecognizable, misunderstood, unexpressible pain in the jaw.)

Mayo Clinic also offers several tips and suggestions to alleviate some of the problems you may encounter. Would you like to know more? Check out this online resource.

Molars and the Terrible Two’s

Unfortunately, the 2nd set of molars also begin arriving at approximately the same time as the so-called “Terrible Two’s. That doesn’t mean that one causes the other.

In fact, it is more than possible that the teething pain increases the 2 yr olds stress and adds to the intensity of his or her difficulties.

As Dentistry for Children discussed in an earlier blog, the first set of molars arrive between 13 and 19 months. Then, the second set begins between 23 and 33 months.

These last four molars are the final baby teeth to erupt.

So when baby teeth begin pushing their way up through your baby’s gums, it can prove to be a very stressful time for both you and your child.

Understand Symptoms of 2nd Molar Eruptions

Anger and Pain From a Molar Can Be Mistaken for the Terrible Two's

2 Year Molars are Super-Size Teeth. So, Be Patient with Your Toddler. Cutting a Molar is a Super-Size Job.

Molar teething should not be confused with emotional changes that are common in dealing with the Terrible Two’s.

Very real pain can be involved in the large molar eruptions or teething. This means that it is particularly important to understand the symptoms that signal these new baby teeth.

Some of the common baby teeth eruption symptoms are:

  • Inflamed gums.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Chewing on things.
  • Interrupted Sleep.
  • And irritability, of course.

In addition to physical symptoms, it’s not uncommon to notice a change in your toddler’s moods as they deal with their molars growing in. As we mentioned earlier, this process can be painful and uncomfortable, causing even the happiest child to become irritable and sullen”

  • Many parents suspect that teething causes higher fever and diarrhea, but researchers say they aren’t indications of teething. If your baby has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F (38 C) or diarrhea, talk to your doctor.
  • It’s important to bear with your child during this time and maintain proper infant oral hygiene.
  • Of course, some toddlers may go through the process with no noticeable discomfort. If so, “Heaven be praised.” We call these children, “little angels.”

Tips and Warnings: Do’s and Don’ts

Below, Dentistry for Children and Dr. Troy King present you with some warnings of what not to do during molar teething. Plus, we show you suggestions of how to make your child more comfortable.

Certainly, it’s almost impossible to watch a baby cry without feeling like crying ourselves. However, we need to make sure that our treatment doesn’t do more harm than good.

FDA and American Academy of Pediatrics  No No’s

FDA and the American Academy of Pediatrics both warn us that many of the pharmaceutical items for teething sound wonderful but can be dangerous and some can be deadly.  Avoid these so-called Teething cures:

  • Soothing children’s gums with prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
  • Homeopathic drugs.
  • Teething jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain.

They may seem like good options. However, there are serious risks associated with them. We especially caution using jewelry marketed for relieving teething pain. Your child could suffer choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth, and infection.

Teething Creams and Gels:  Risky Business

Avoid trying to relieve a teething baby by rubbing numbing medications on the child’s gums. In fact, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against using any sort of topical medication to treat teething pain in children, including prescription or OTC creams and gels, or homeopathic teething tablets. Just say “no.” And step away from the medicine cabinet.

Specific Products to Avoid in Children

Here are a few specific drugs that may be found in over the counter or prescription products. They are not recommended for young children and could cause serious harm. Yes, we know your mom might have used them on you, but they are no longer classified as safe for young children.

  • Benzocaine
  • Anbesol
  • Baby Orajel
  • Cepacol.
  • Chloraseptic.
  • Orabase.
  • Orajel.
  • And Topex.

For additional details and warnings, check out this trusted FDA online resource.

Recommended Teething Care: American Academy of Pediatrics

For the parents, we recommend above all a sense of humor and a boatload of patience. It’s a tough time for all.

However, there are a few positive things you can do to relieve the tension and discomfort of your toddler.

Teething Rings

Dr. Jim Nickman is the president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. (AAPD) Dr. Nickman’s list for easing the pain of teething includes the firm rubber teething ring. He says this is a classic in “the arsenal of parent’s weapons to fight the pain of teething.”

However, “avoid liquid-filled teething rings or other plastic objects that could break.”  Dr. Nickman warned. The liquid in the rings can cause mold. Likewise you might have heard on the news, that some rings include Bella Donna in that liquid.

In case you’re not aware, “Belladonna is an incredibly toxic hallucinogen and can be fatal for children.”

Second:  A Simple Comfort for Teething

She Never Felt Molar Pain. The Whole Family Must Be Lucky!

Dr. Nickman stated, “For some children, simply putting pressure on the sore area might be enough to help.”  He added, “Rubbing the gums with a cool, wet cloth can be helpful.”

Also, be sure the washcloth is cool or cold, not frozen.

Emergencies: Call Your Pediatric Dentist

And finally, if you feel that the pain is overly severe or if you are concerned with other symptoms, be sure to contact your pediatric dentist.

As always, we thank you for reading the blog at Dentistry for Children.