Teething is a rite of passage for every little one and involves the movement of milk teeth (also known as baby teeth, primary teeth, or deciduous teeth) in and then through the gums.
Unfortunately, it can be painful for babies and, in turn, stressful for their parents and caregivers.
To help you understand more about the teething timeline, teething symptoms, and how you can help soothe your baby as their teeth come in, we've created this guide to all things teething.
When do babies start teething?
All babies start teething at different times. For some, teeth can start to appear as early as three months, while others don’t start teething until after their first birthday. But most babies will start teething when they’re around six months old, with the bottom, front teeth appearing first.
Here’s a handy rough guide to how a baby’s teeth usually emerge:
- Bottom incisors (bottom front teeth): These are usually the first teeth to appear, usually at around 6 to 10 months.
- Top incisors (top front teeth): These usually come through from about 8 to 12 months.
- Top lateral incisors (either side of the top front teeth): These appear at around 9 to 13 months.
- Bottom lateral incisors (either side of the bottom front teeth): These come through at around 10 to 16 months.
- First Molars (back teeth): These come through at around 13 to 19 months.
- Canines (often known as the ‘fang’ or ‘eye tooth’): These come through at around 16 to 23 months.
- Second Molars: These come through at around 20 to 30 months.
Don’t worry, teething isn’t a constant process, and each tooth or pair of teeth should only cause your baby pain for just over a week. Five days ahead of an appearance – ‘eruption day’ – and three days afterwards.
Most little ones will have all 20 of their milk teeth by the time they're around three years old.
What are the symptoms of teething?
Teething is particularly frustrating for everyone involved because young babies can't talk to communicate that they’re in pain. You can look out for the following signs that may tell you that their first tooth is on its way…
- Excessive drooling: Babies dribble way more than usual when they're teething.
- Chewing on everything and anything: Teething babies have sore and tender gums, so gnawing and chewing provides them with relief.
- Irritability and grumpiness: Your baby may be irritable, grumpy and restless, and who can blame them?!
- Slight increase in temperature: A mildly-raised temperature might also be a sign but it should not be over 38°C. If it is, seek medical advice.
- A loss of appetite: Who wants to eat when in pain? It’s likely your baby will go off their food for a while. Just keep their fluids up with lots of water and see if you can tempt them with a nice cold treat to soothe their throbbing gums.
- One flushed, red cheek: This is a common sign of teething. Your baby's cheeks turn red and feel warmer when they're teething because the tooth that's coming through the gum causes irritation.
- A facial rash around the mouth or chin: Teething often leads to more drooling, and all that extra moisture can irritate baby's sensitive skin.
- Rubbing their ears: The nerves around the gums, cheek, jaw, and ear are connected, and so they can all be affected by teething pain. If you notice your child tugging on their ear or rubbing their cheek or jaw, this is a sign that they're probably teething. However, it's good to note that little ones with an ear infection will also pull their ear, so check with your doctor if this symptom is present for longer than a few days.
To know for sure if your baby is teething, you can lay them your lap and peek inside their mouth by moving their top or bottom lip or gently coaxing open their jaw. Then, use a clean finger to gently feel around their upper and lower gums to check for tooth buds (small bumps along your baby's gum with a hard tooth underneath).
Other signs and symptoms people often associate with teething but that studies have found aren't generally linked to teething include…
- Coughs and congestion.
- Disturbed sleep.
- An increased number of poos, runny poos and nappy rash.
- Loss of appetite for liquids.
- Rashes other than those on the face.
- A fever of over 100.4°F.
A fever and other clinically important symptoms, like diarrhoea, rashes, and vomiting are very unlikely to be caused by teething, so make sure you talk to your doctor about these.
How can I soothe my teething baby?
We know that no parent likes to see their little one in pain. Luckily, there are things you can do to ease their discomfort. These include…
- Offering your baby a teething toy: Teethers can relieve sore, sensitive gums. You can also pop them in the fridge (not the freezer) so they're nice and cool. There's lots of different types available, from teething mitts and silicone teethers to baby-safe natural rubber, wooden and plastic teethers.
- Keep their face dry: Gently wiping baby's face with a soft cloth or bib to keep it dry and drool-free can help prevent a facial rash.
- Giving them something cold to chew on: A cold surface can help soothe discomfort in your little one’s mouth. You can freeze a teether or soft comforter and let your baby chew on the knotted corners. The cold fabric has a soothing, numbing effect. Just remember to put the comforter in a freezer bag to keep it separate from other items in your freezer.
- Massaging their gums: You can use a clean finger to massage around their gums for one to two minutes. This often soothes their pain and distracts them.
- Offer some cool foods: Foods such as a puree or yogurt straight from the fridge can offer some relief to teething babies. You can also offer little ones over six months old raw carrot sticks or cucumber batons, or offer them a good old ice cube wrapped in a soft muslin cloth to chew on.
- Using teething gel: If your baby's over four months old, you can rub sugar-free teething gel on their gums. These gels are often formulated with a mild local anaesthetic to numb pain, and antiseptic to prevent infection. Talk to your GP or a pharmacist before you use teething gel on a younger baby.
- Giving your baby a sugar-free pain killer: If teething is painful and causing your baby to have a mild raised temperature (less than 38°C), you could give them a sugar-free painkiller designed for babies and young children. These contain a small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. It’s important to note that anyone under 16 shouldn't be given aspirin.
- Giving lots of extra love and cuddles: Teething can be upsetting for both you and your baby, so extra cuddles can really help! You can also sing and talk to them in a soothing way so they know you’re right there with them to help them through the pain.
Remember, different soothing techniques will work for each baby, so don’t lose heart if it takes some time to find one that’s right for your little one.