Seeing your baby's first tooth is often something that fills parents with both excitement and dread.
It's a big milestone in a child's development, but it so often coupled with a period of crying and screaming. On one hand, baby teeth are an essential part of development, helping your child to eat solid foods. On the other, it'll have you pulling your hair out and searching for the best teething products.
Over the course of this guide, we'll look at some of the most common baby teething symptoms, the different types of soothing products, and how to keep your child's teeth healthy.
Baby teething symptoms
Like most developmental milestones, teething is different for every baby.
Of course, it's not always obvious that your child's first tooth is coming because you can't see it. It's pushing its way out from within baby's gums and the pain can begin long before it reaches the surface.
If you're lucky, your baby's teeth will come through without even knowing about it. Yes, that's right. Some parents are lucky enough to see teething barely bother their child. On the other end of the spectrum, teething can be a hellacious period filled with seemingly never ending screaming and tears.
Let's take a look at some of the most common symptoms.
Gnawing/chewing on things - It's incredibly common to see babies start gnawing or chewing on different items because it can relieve some of the pain and pressure of the tooth growing.
Sore or swollen gums - This is likely to be where the tooth is coming through the gum. There may just be some redness or just some swelling in baby's gums, but it's common to have both at the same time. If you notice redness and/or swelling in more than one area, there may be two teeth coming through at the same time.
Mild temperature - It's common to for babies to have a mild fever when their teeth come. This is likely to be less than 38℃.
Redness/rash on one cheek - You might see some redness or a rash appear on one cheek - on the side that the tooth is coming through
Excessive drooling - Saliva has mild antibacterial properties and is a key part of maintaining oral hygiene. When a new tooth erupts, the body's natural response is to increase the production of saliva. So, your baby may struggle to keep the new levels of saliva in their mouth.
Drooling can causes rashes around the mouth, so be sure to wipe it up throughout the day.
Rubbing their ear - Teething can cause pain to spread to the ear and cheek, and so you may find your baby rubbing their ear to ease irritation.
Not sleeping well - Naturally, pain and discomfort can interrupt sleep
It's important to remember that your child may only experience a few of these symptoms (maybe even none at all!). You know your baby best - if any symptoms are causing you concern, contact your child's doctor.
How to treat teething
If your baby is struggling to cope with teething, whether it's their first tooth or their 10th, many parents will looking for different ways of treating it.
Medical experts advise trying non-medical treatment first. There are a number of different methods that parents turn to when their child's baby teeth are on the way.
Teething toys are usually made from rubber, silicone or wood and come in various shapes and sizes. The material provides some counter-pressure to the tooth itself and massages the sore gums, helping to reduce the pain and discomfort. They are typically designed to be quite fun and engaging for baby, too, so that it helps to distract them from the pain.
This category is also home to the teething ring. Some teething rings can be put in the fridge to offer extra relief, however these should never be placed in the freezer.
Check out our pick of the 10 best teething toys here.
It's no secret that babies love reaching for anything that dangles from our necks, whether it's a necklace or a work lanyard. Teething necklaces take the concept of a ring and put it on a necklace - allowing baby to reach up and grab it, while also looking fashionable.
Gently wipe or rub where the tooth is coming through or the gum is swollen with your finger to massage it. Be sure to do it with a clean finger, though. You don't want to risk infection.
Teething tablets are small tablets made from homeopathic ingredients designed to dissolve in water or milk. They do not contain medicines like aspirin or paracetamol and, therefore, some parents see them as a preferable alternative to medicinal treatments. They are popped into baby's water or milk bottle and consumed as normal.
Similar to tablets, teething powders are made from homeopathic ingredients. Usually packaged in pre-measured doses, they are often either placed on a spoon or parent's finger and inserted into baby's mouth.
Teething gels are another homeopathic option, often containing a mild anaesthetic use to numb the area around the tooth. In the UK, they are typically only sold in pharmacies.
A word of caution
Homeopathic teething products are the point of much debate. Many medical professionals warn against using them, while plenty of parents will sing their praises.
Some of the ingredients can be dangerous, particularly for young children. In the US, the FDA has warned against homeopathic products that include belladonna. In the UK, parents are advised to only use products licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
Baby teeth chart
If you're wondering how many teeth your child should have by their age, or are asking yourself 'what order do baby teeth grow?', check out our handy baby teeth chart below
Every child is different, and so there's no hard and fast rule about the age that teeth come through into baby's mouth. Some babies might not start to see their first tooth until close to their first birthday, while some are even born with a tooth or two.
Most babies' first teeth appear will around 6-7 months old. It's also relatively common for tooth eruption to run in families. So if you and/or your partner started early, chances are your baby will too.
Central incisors are the front teeth - the ones you see front and centre when someone smiles. The lower central incisors are usually the first tiny teeth to appear, closely followed by the upper central incisors.
Incisors are primarily used for biting and shearing foods.
Used for cutting, the lateral incisors sit either side of the two front teeth in the upper and lower jaws. Whereas it was the lower central incisors to come first, when it comes to lateral incisors, it's usually the top ones that erupt first.
Although the central incisors are the first teeth to come through for most kids, sometimes its the lateral incisors first.
You might have been expecting baby teeth to just keep working backwards, but we actually tend to skip the canine teeth and go straight to the first molars. The molars are used for chewing and breaking down food. The first molars can often be the most painful and uncomfortable because they're bigger than the incisors - it's like two teeth erupting at the same time.
The canine teeth are the pointy teeth that sit between the lateral incisors and the first molars. They're called 'canine' teeth because they resemble a dog's fangs. Canine teeth are used to tear and rip apart tough food in preparation for chewing.
The second molars are also known as the 'two year molars' because, well, they erupt around the second birthday for a lot of children. They will allow your child to chew much more effectively and efficiently.
Primary teeth - Primary teeth are 20 teeth (10 in the upper jaw, 10 in the lower jaw) that make up baby's first teeth, hidden under the gums at birth. These are also known as 'deciduous teeth' and, more commonly, 'milk teeth'.
Permanent teeth - Permanent teeth, also known as 'adult teeth' or 'secondary teeth' are the teeth that grow after your primary teeth have fallen out. The average adult will have 32 in total by the age of 21, 16 upper teeth and 16 lower teeth.
When do baby teeth fall out?
Baby teeth, or primary teeth, need to fall out in order to make way for the permanent teeth - the teeth you'll (hopefully) have for the rest of your life.
Although they generally fall out in the same order that they grew, baby teeth take a lot longer to fall out. It generally takes less than three years for all of the primary teeth to erupt. But children could still have one or two baby teeth when they're as old as 12.
Just like growing teeth, these are just general windows. Some children will lose their primary teeth earlier and some will lose them later.
How to keep your child's teeth healthy
Once the first baby tooth has made an appearance, many parents are left wondering when it's time to start brushing in order to maintain healthy teeth and prevent tooth decay.
The answer is quite simple - you should start brushing as soon as baby's first tooth erupts.
You should use soft toothbrush with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste that contains no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride . Some people overestimate how much toothpaste is needed, even as more and more teeth emerge. Many parents assume they should use the same pea sized amount they use for their own toothpaste once all of their babies teeth have grown.
However, in reality, it's a much, much smaller amount. The image below indicates how much toothpaste should be used on children from 0-3 years according to the NHS.
And this show much should be used by 3-6 year olds.
Here are some other tips to keep in mind:
Brush twice a day for two minutes
Brush last thing before bed and another occasion during the day. Most parents do this in the morning before leaving the house. However, some childcare and early years education settings do
Don't let your child eat or lick toothpaste from the tube
Visit the dentist
Pediatric dentistry is an important part of preventing tooth decay and maintaining overall oral hygiene. As soon as your baby's teeth come through, you should register them with a pediatric dentist. Waiting lists can be quite lengthy, so it's best to register that as early as possible.
Although your baby is unlikely to have any dental issues at this age, it's a good idea to start taking them to the dentist from a young age so they are more accustomed to it when they do require checkups.
It can be a scary experience, so try to make it as fun and interesting as possible.
When do babies start teething?
For most babies, their first tooth appears around 6-7 months. However, there is no exact timing for when a baby with start teething. It could be earlier or it could be later.
What are the most common teething symptoms?
Every child is different and so they experience it differently. If they don't appear to be in pain or discomfort, it can be hard to know that your baby is teething at all. However, there certainly some signs to look out:
Gnawing/chewing on items
Rash/redness on one cheek
Rubbing their ear
Which teething product is best?
There's not really a right answer here. It just depends on what works for your child.
Health professionals will always recommend trying non-medical interventions first - teething rings, necklaces or toys. Many parents will swear by homeopathic teething products like powders or gels, while others won't see any benefit. The US' FDA actively warns against homeopathic products because of some of the ingredients, while the UK licenses specific ones.
When should you start brushing a baby's teeth?
You should start brushing a baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste and soft toothbrush twice a day.
When do teeth start falling out?
Most children will start to see their teeth fall out around the ages of 6-7 years old. However, as with growing new teeth, this can happen a few years earlier or a few years later.
When does a child get their permanent teeth?
Permanent, or adult, teeth pushing through is what causes the baby teeth to fall out. So the permanent teeth appear shortly after a baby tooth has fallen out. For the central incisors, this will generally be around 6-7 years old.