Mum and Baby Teething

Here we look at the different stages of teething, from when to expect the first symptoms, to when they might be sporting a full set of pearly whites.

This is one area of your baby’s life that you’re allowed to wish away and hurry to get past: teething. After all, who likes seeing their baby in pain? And teething does cause little ones a lot of discomfort (Eisenstadt et al, 2017).

"The first thing to say is teething is a completely normal and, unfortunately, a necessary stage in your baby’s development."

It usually starts to happen when they’re six to nine months old. Your baby will likely be more unsettled than usual, with excess drool and wanting to chew everything in sight (Harding, 2016). See our article on the signs of teething.

Teething: when does it happen?

Your baby’s milk teeth first teeth start to develop when they’re in the womb (Community Practitioner, 2011). We know, mind-blowing. But the teeth usually pop through the gums during your baby’s first year (Community Practitioner, 2011; American Dental Association, 2018).

That said, some babies are born with their first teeth and others don’t see any come through until after 12 months. As with all things baby, there are no hard and fast rules. By the time your baby’s two and a half to three years old though, they will more than likely have a full set of teeth (Family Lives, 2018).

How many teeth should my baby have and when?

A rough rule of thumb is that the age of your baby in months minus six gives the average number of teeth, up to the age of 2 years (Ashley, 2001). For example a baby hitting their first birthday will have around 12 (months) minus six – so six teeth.

So what exactly is going on in there?

The gums swell and are tender to touch just before a tooth breaks through (Ashley, 2001) and so anything in their mouths could cause additional pain.

You might see their gum start to split slightly to make way for the emerging tooth (Harding, 2016; NHS, 2016). This is actually the cells in the gum over a tooth dying off, creating a path for the tooth to emerge through (Community Practitioner, 2011).

And with the molars (and occasionally the incisors) you can see a blistering on the gum or a smooth bluish swelling ahead of the tooth emerging (Ashley, 2001).

Mind the gap

When the teeth grow, special chemicals are released by the body. This causes part of the gums to separate and allow teeth to grow through. How clever is that? (Harding, 2016; NHS, 2016).

What’s the order that baby teeth appear in?

Here’s a quick, handy chart that tells you roughly when to expect each tooth, though do remember that every child is different (NHS, 2016; NHS Devon, 2018). Generally, you’ll find their teeth erupt in pairs, usually starting with their two bottom teeth – first incisors (Lyttle et al, 2015).

Where the teeth appear

Name of the type of tooth

Approximate age of appearance – bottom

Approximate age of appearance – top

Front

First incisor

5 – 10 months

6 – 12 months

Either side of the front

Second incisor

9 – 16 months

9 – 13 months

Pointy teeth at the side of the mouth

Canine

17 – 23 months

16 – 22 months

Towards the back of the mouth

First molar

12 – 16 months

13 – 19 months

At the back

Second molar

20 – 31 months

25 – 33 months

Don’t be alarmed, teething isn’t constant from five to 33 months. In fact, each tooth or pair of teeth should only cause your little one pain for just over a week. In other words, for five days ahead of an appearance – ‘eruption day’ – and three days afterwards (Macknin et al, 2000).

So what can I do to help them through these bouts of teething?

Teething may make them super-grumpy, which is tough on you too. Thankfully, there are some things that can ease their discomfort, such as teething toys, certain foods and even cuddles. You can read more about teething in our range of articles.

"And rest assured that like with every stage, this one will pass. Soon you’ll be on to the daily teeth cleaning battles…"

See our guide to brushing your baby’s teeth here.

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.

NHS has produced a guide to looking after your baby’s teeth.

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

American Dental Association (2018) Eruption charts. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/eruption-charts [accessed 17th September 2018]

Ashley MP (2001) It’s only teething… A report of the myths and modern approaches to teething. Opinion piece. Br Dent J. 191(1):4-8. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/4801078.pdf [accessed 17th September 2018].

Community Practitioner (2011). Teething trouble: Educational supplement. Vol 7, March.[ER1] 

Eisenstadt M, Malkiel S, Pollak U (2017) It’s alright, ma (I’m only teething...) dispelling the myth from the teeth. Acad J Ped Neonatol. 3(4):555618. Available at: https://juniperpublishers.com/ajpn/pdf/AJPN.MS.ID.555618.pdf [accessed 17th September 2018].

Family Lives (2018) Teething. Available at: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/pregnancy-and-baby/health-and-development/teething/ [accessed 1st April 2018].

Harding M (2016) Teething. Patient. Available at: https://patient.info/health/teething#nav-2 [accessed 28th September 2018].

Macknin ML, Piedmonte M, Jacobs J, Skibinski C (2000) Symptoms associated with infant teething: a prospective study. Pediatrics. 2000 Apr;105(4 Pt 1):747-52. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10742315 [accessed 17th September 2018].[2] 

NHS Choices (2016) Baby teething symptoms. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/teething-and-tooth-care/ [accessed 17th September 2018].

NHS Devon (2018) Oral health information, age related advice, babies 0-1. Available: http://www.healthyteethdevon.nhs.uk/oral-health-information/public/age-related-advice/babies-0-1/ [accessed 1st April 2018].

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