Prior to a few decades ago, most physicians who cared for infants looked on teething as the cause of many serious pediatric complaints. For example, Harrison in 18621 offers this advice to a young practitioner:
But it is especially in reference to affections of the head that the condition of the gums becomes a source of solicitude. During dentition any twitchings in the face, or curious starings of the eyes, are full of meaning, and should never be suffered to pass over without due attention to the teeth. I think all well educated medical men, in this country, are advocates for lancing the gums, though I believe it is very seldom done on the Continent. Mothers, however, not unfrequently object; they think it a pity to hurt the little darling, and they would rather wait awhile and leave matters to nature. Some have an idea that the teeth will be more difficult to cut after the gums are lanced, if the teeth do not immediately protrude.
Kennedy, another respected nineteenth century practitioner, who wrote extensively about the management of children in health and disease tells us that:
Teething, when difficult, is apt to induce derangement of the vital functions, especially those of the alimentary and nervous systems. Acidity of the stomach with occasional vomiting; quick pulses, hot dry skin, and unnatural dejections, with swelling of the belly and emaciation, require being corrected by the remedies advised for moderating or removing the fevers of infants. . . . Little reasons is afforded by experience, for regarding local applications to the gums as having ever contributed to the relief of painful dentition:-pure air, frequent change of dress, tepid or cool sponging of the body and spine, with regularity of the bowels and salutary nourishment prove far surer instruments of obtaining a favourable result.