Teething is a normal process that babies go through as their teeth break, or cut, through their gums. Babies are born with a full set of teeth underneath their gums, which then cut through in stages.
Having teeth means your child will be able to eat a bigger variety of foods, but getting there can be tough on both baby and parent. Babies are often irritable, and may have a loss of appetite 1
Each baby is different, but most babies get their first tooth by the age of 6 months. By the time that they are three years old, they should have a full set of 20 baby teeth 1,2. The two bottom front teeth are usually the first to appear, followed by the upper front teeth. The eye teeth (canines) and second molars (back teeth) are the last teeth to cut through 2.
Symptoms to spot which may indicate teething
Contrary to popular belief, teething does not cause fever. Children who do have a fever and are especially fussy should be examined by a doctor for an infection, as these symptoms are not caused by teething 2.
Baby teeth sometimes emerge with no pain or discomfort at all. At other times, you may notice 2,3:
• Your baby’s gum is sore and red where the tooth is coming through.
• They may eat or sleep poorly.
• One cheek is flushed.
• They are rubbing their ear.
• Your baby is drooling more than usual.
• They are gnawing and chewing on things a lot.
• They are more fretful than usual.
Tips to relieve your baby’s teething pain
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. Never freeze a teething ring, as it may damage your baby’s gums, or break and present a choking hazard 1,4.
Healthy fruit or vegetables for a chewing baby
Once your baby starts to chew, you may introduce cooled, healthy fruit or vegetables for baby to chew on. A piece of apple or carrot is ideal. Be sure to always monitor their chewing to prevent choking 1,4.
Rubbing your baby’s gum
It may provide some comfort to your baby if you gently rub his or her gums with a clean finger or a damp washcloth 1.
Put on a bib
Constant drooling may irritate your baby’s skin. Use a bib to keep your baby’s chin as dry as possible 1.
Pain relieving medication
If your baby is having a tough time, you may want to give some sugar-free pain medication such as paracetamol to help relieve pain and discomfort 2,4. Paracetamol may be used in babies and infants younger than 3 months 5.
What NOT to do to relieve your baby’s teething pain 1:
• Never give a baby aspirin or rub it on the gums.
• Never use alcohol on the baby’s gums.
• Never put completely frozen objects directly on the gums.
• Never allow your child to chew on hard plastic toys — this poses both an oral health risk as well as a choking hazard.
Teething gels are not recommended because they are not any more effective than other measures of pain relief, and some contain a potentially dangerous substance called benzocaine 2.
For more information, refer to your healthcare provider.
1. Johnson S. Teething Syndrome: When Your Baby Starts Teething [online] August 2017 [cited] 4 September 2020; Available from URL: https://www.healthline.com/health/teething.
2. Raab CP. Teething [online] October 2019 [cited] 4 September 2020; Available from URL: https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/children-s-health-issues/miscellaneous-disorders-in-infants-and-young-children/teething.
3. NHS. Baby teething symptoms [online] February 2019 [cited] 4 September 2020; Available from URL: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/teething-and-tooth-care/.
4. NHS. Tips for helping your teething baby [online] February 2019 [cited] 4 September 2020; Available from URL: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/teething-tips/.
5. De Martino M, Chiarugi A. Recent Advances in Pediatric Use of Oral Paracetamol in Fever and Pain Management. Pain Ther 2015;4:149–168. DOI 10.1007/s40122-015-0040-z.