Baby with fingers in mouth

Here we look at five easy methods to help soothe your baby’s sore gums .

They’re down in the dumps and in pain with those pesky teeth trying desperately to get through. You and your baby just want to do anything to MAKE IT STOP, so those poor sore gums are relieved.

Parents, grandparents, friends all have their teething tips, but what actually works? Here we share five easy things for you to try. These methods have all been closely studied by clever people in white coats. And ta-dah, they’ve published a list in order of effectiveness (Memarpour et al, 2015). Most are methods or versions of them that others also recommend.

1. Teething toys

Drumroll please, this method takes top spot. The study suggested that a solid plastic ring that your baby can chew down on might provide the most relief compared with the other methods they tested.

The science is that pushing down on a teether provides counter-pressure to a rising tooth. This method is widely recommended and reported to work, especially chilled objects (Kozuch et al, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016a).

So what do I do?

Either buy a teething toy, or use a safe household object such as your baby’s weaning spoon. You might even have a teether attached to one of their toys already. Read our detailed guide to teething toys here.

2. Cuddle therapy

Yes, I know, we didn’t know it was a thing either. Other than being the nicest name for a therapy ever, it gains second spot for how to ease their teething pain. How cute is that.

So what do I do?

Other than the obvious like cuddling them when they are distressed or feeling discomfort, just be there for them and distract them. Try distracting them with playing, singing and reading for example (NHS Choices, 2016a).

3. Rubbing the gums

This light massage technique gains third spot and is widely recommended (Kozuch et al, 2015). And what’s great about this is all you need is a clean fingertip.

So what do I do?

Another obvious one, but use a clean fingertip or very soft finger toothbrush to lightly massage your little one’s gums for one to two minutes. Perhaps try small circular motions.

4. Ice

Ice ice baby, sorry we couldn’t resist. In fourth place is a cube of ice wrapped up in something for soothing those emerging pearly whites.

So what do I do?

While some parents we know try this method and report good results but do approach it with caution. The NHS says to never put a teething ring in the freezer because it could damage your baby’s gums (NHS Choices, 2016a).

Watch your baby carefully to make sure it isn’t too cold for them (prompting even more grizzles). If it is, try a chilled teether instead (Kozuch et al, 2015; NHS Choices, 2016a).

5. Food for chewing  

Last was using food to chew on to ease their pain. That’s not to say it wasn’t effective – half of parents in the study still reported it as completely or moderately effective, so it’s certainly worth raiding the kitchen and giving it a shot. This is also something the NHS recommends (NHS, 2016a).

So what do I do?

The babies in the study were given small pieces of a frozen fruit or vegetable, like banana, apple or cucumber, to chew on under the watchful eye of parents. However, the NHS advises against using frozen items (NHS Choices, 2016a). Instead try a piece of apple or carrot, a crust of bread or a breadstick (NHS Choices, 2016a).

It’s really important you only use foods if your baby is weaning and you are there to ensure they don’t choke.

What next?

Of course, these aren’t the only remedies available. For more suggestions, see this article. Different things will work for different babies so give them give them a try and see what works for your little one. Good luck.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

NCT has partnered with the British Red Cross to offer courses in baby first aid.

Kozuch M, Peacock E, D'Auria JP (2015). Infant teething information on the world wide web: taking a byte out of the search. J Pediatr Health Care. 29(1):38-45.

NHS (2016) Tips for helping your teething baby. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/teething-tips/ [accessed 17th September 2018].

Memarpour M, Soltanimehr E, Eskandarian T (2015) Signs and symptoms associated with primary tooth eruption: a clinical trial of nonpharmacological remedies. BMC Oral Health. 15:88. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517507/ doi: 10.1186/s12903-015-0070-2 [accessed 17th September 2018].

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