Teething is a natural part of your baby’s growth and development. The symptoms can be painful but remedies are available. Find out about the signs of teething and more here.
A baby’s first teeth (usually known as milk teeth) actually start to develop during pregnancy while your baby is still growing in your womb. Teeth start to appear through the gums during your baby’s first year and this is known as teething. We have divided this article into the different stages you may expect your baby to experience during this process.
- When do babies start teething?
- Signs and symptoms of teething
- Teething treatments and remedies
- Does teething affect how I feed my baby?
- Good tooth care for children
- Further information
When do babies start teething?
Although a few babies are born with teeth already in place, the age that babies start teething is usually at around six to nine months old, though all babies are different and the timing can vary a lot. We have put together a rough guide outlining the different stages you may expect your baby to go through. Most children will have all of their milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old.
A rough guide to the different stages of teething is shown in the following table:
|Where the teeth appear||Name for the type of tooth||Approximate age they appear|
|Bottom front||incisors||5-7 months|
|Top front||incisors||6-8 months|
|Either side of the top front||incisors||9-11 months|
|Either side of the bottom front||incisors||10-12 months|
|Pointy teeth at the side of the mouth||canines||16-20 months|
|Towards the back of the mouth||molars||12-16 months|
|At the back||second molars||18-30 months|
While some babies appear to find teething painful others do not. Signs and symptoms commonly associated with teething include: red cheeks, a teething rash on the chin, diarrhoea and nappy rash along with an appearance of general discomfort, restlessness and a disturbed sleeping pattern. It is hard to tell whether these symptoms are caused by teething or other factors though. It is very, likely, however, that your baby will want to chew even more than usual and any object to hand will do including fingers, toys and clothing. General dribbling and drooling is likely to increase as well.
If your baby shows any of these symptoms for an extended period you may want to seek advice from your health visitor or GP. You can also call our helpline on 0300 330 0700 if you have any questions or concerns.
There are lots of ways you can help your baby through teething. We have listed a few suggestions below:
- Provide your baby with something that is hard to chew on, i.e. a teething ring or any toy or object that is clean and easily held in their hand, but which has no sharp or broken areas and will be able to withstand the chewing. It may also help to cool the ring or toy by putting it in the fridge (but not the freezer) beforehand.
- Rub your baby’s gums gently, either with your finger or with a soft baby’s toothbrush.
If your baby is over six months old, you can try a variety of foods to chew on, but you need to supervise them while eating to avoid the risk of choking. The following foods have been found helpful with some babies:
- Pieces of raw fruits and vegetables, such as apples, celery and carrots – these too can be chilled in the fridge.
- Unsweetened rusks, teething biscuits or a piece of bread with a chewy crust that’s not too hard.
- Cool water to drink, especially if your baby is dribbling excessively.
There are also several formulations you can buy, but it is important to check they are sugar-free, safe for your baby’s age and given in the right quantity:
- Teething gel for babies, if they are more than four months old, can be applied to the baby’s gums.
- Painkilling medicine for babies, such as liquid infant paracetamol or ibuprofen.
The experience of teething is new to your baby and may be miserable, even if it is not very painful. This may be the first time you, as a parent, have seen your child in pain and it can be upsetting and stressful. Plenty of cuddles, attention and soothing words are likely to improve the experience for you both. Try to remain calm and think of activities that soothe or distract your baby so that you feel you are doing something to help.
The arrival baby’s first tooth may make some mums who breastfeed anxious that feeding will hurt or become more difficult. In fact, the teeth usually do not make much difference. Babies often like to practise a biting action and can ‘nip’ with their gums as well as with their first teeth. Read our article Breastfeeding: my baby is biting me to find out more.
Early teething should not cause a child any problems; although it is possible their feeding patterns may alter slightly. Some mums, whose babies start to bite, find it helps to bring the baby further in towards the breast, which encourages the baby to release their bite. An alternative is to take the baby off the breast by inserting your finger between his gums. If you say ‘no’ calmly but firmly at the same time, your baby will begin to understand the sound and learn what it means.
Two minutes’ brushing twice a day is recommended once a child has teeth. With a baby or toddler, the main objective is to get them used to tooth-brushing as part of the morning and bedtime routine. It’s a good idea to try and make it fun, by singing songs or telling stories, so that tooth-brushing is associated with a parent’s attention and an enjoyable time. Some parents use a kitchen timer with a bell or other noise to mark the time, extending the length of time as more teeth come through.
If you have a planned check-up with your dentist, you can take your baby with you. In that way, they get used to the unfamiliar smells, sights and sounds of a dentist’s surgery. The dentist may even offer a ride in the up-and-down chair!
Deciding which toothpaste to use is best discussed with a local dentist as fluoride levels vary greatly across the country. Several toothpastes are designed for children that are less strongly-flavoured than adult varieties.
Children lack the skills to clean their own teeth properly until they are around eight years old, so they will require adult assistance until then.
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 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.