Some babies are born with their first teeth. Others start teething before they are 4 months old, and some after 12 months. But most babies start teething at around 6 months. Baby teeth sometimes emerge with no pain or discomfort at all. At other times, you may notice that:
- their gum is sore and red where the tooth is coming through
- they have a mild temperature of 38C
- they have 1 flushed cheek
- they have a rash on their face
- they're rubbing their ear
- they're dribbling more than usual
- they're gnawing and chewing on things a lot
- they're more fretful than usual
- they're not sleeping very well.
Some people think that teething causes other symptoms, such as diarrhoea and fever, but there’s no evidence to support this.
How do I manage teething?
Teething can be distressing for some babies, but there are ways to make it easier for them. Every baby is different, and you may have to try a few different things until you find something that works for your baby.
- Teething rings – Teething rings give your baby something to chew safely. This may ease their discomfort and distract them from any pain. Some teething rings can be cooled first in the fridge, which may help to soothe your baby's gums (read the instructions). Never put a teething ring in the freezer, as it could damage your baby's gums if it gets frozen or around your baby’s neck, as it may be a choking hazard.
If your baby is six months or older, you can give them healthy things to chew on, such as raw fruit and vegetables. Pieces of apple or carrot are ideal. You could also try giving your baby a crust of bread or a breadstick. It’s best to avoid rusks, because nearly all brands contain some sugar. Always stay close when your baby is eating in case they choke.
- Comforting or playing with your baby can distract them from any pain in their gums. Gently rubbing their gums with a clean finger may also help. If teething is making your baby dribble more than usual, gently wiping their face often may help to prevent a rash.
- Teething gels – Teething gels often contain a mild local anaesthetic, which helps to numb any pain or discomfort caused by teething. Teething products that contain the medicine lidocaine will only be available from a pharmacy on the advice of a pharmacist; this is so a pharmacist can give you advice about what would be best for your baby. The gels may also contain antiseptic ingredients, which help to prevent infection in any sore or broken skin in your baby’s mouth. Make sure you use a teething gel that’s specially designed for young children and not a general oral pain relief gel, as these aren’t suitable for children. Your pharmacist or health visitor can advise you.
- Other pain relief – A sugar-free painkiller specifically for babies and young children such as paracetamol or ibuprofen if your baby is in pain or has a mild raised temperature (less than 38˚C). Always follow the instructions that come with the medicine.
- Speak to your pharmacist – for advice if you’re not sure which type of medicine is best for you and your symptoms.
Looking after your babies teeth...
You’ll need to register your baby with a dentist when their teeth start coming through. Start brushing your baby’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste as soon as their first milk tooth breaks through. Avoid any foods that contain lots of sugar, as this can cause tooth decay, even if your child only has a few teeth.
When should I seek further advice?
You know your baby best. Get medical advice if they have any symptoms that are causing you concern. You can call NHS 111, visit your local pharmacy or contact your GP or health visitor.