Symptoms of Baby Teething: How to Recognise the Signs

Teething can be one of the more difficult stages of early childhood for your baby and you, but hang in there – soon you’ll be rewarded with plenty of toothy grins! Discover the answer to all you teething questions, such as when do babies start teething and what are the symptoms? And learn how to soothe and comfort your little one through any uncomfortable or painful teething symptoms and how to care for those new baby teeth.

When Do Babies Start Teething?

When do babies get their first tooth, and how long does teething last? Exactly when that first tooth starts poking through varies a lot from one baby to the next. You may even wonder if babies can be born with teeth. In rare cases, a baby may be born with a tooth or two. Other babies may not start teething until after their first birthday. On average, though, you can probably expect your little one to cut their first tooth sometime around the age of 6 months.

Which Teeth Come First?

Which teeth come first varies from child to child, so the age ranges given here aren’t set in stone, but as a rough guide, teeth usually emerge in this order and – on average – around these times:

  • Bottom front teeth (bottom incisors): 5 to 7 months

  • Top front teeth (top incisors): 6 to 8 months

  • Top lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the top front teeth): 9 to 11 months

  • Bottom lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the bottom front teeth): 10 to 12 months

  • First back teeth (molars): 12 to 16 months

  • Canines (the pointy teeth next to the lateral incisors): 16 to 20 months

  • Second molars: 20 to 30 months.

Remember, each baby is different and their teeth won’t necessarily come in this order. If you’re concerned that your baby’s teeth are coming in the wrong order, you can always talk to your little one’s dentist for more advice.

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The Signs and Symptoms of Teething in Babies

Teething has a way of sneaking up on you unexpectedly. Teething symptoms can start appearing before you notice (or even think to look for) any changes in your baby’s mouth, so until you figure out what’s causing your little one’s discomfort you may wonder what’s wrong.

This is why it’s good to familiarise yourself with the common signs and symptoms of teething, so you’ll be able to tell straight away if your baby has started teething.

So, what are the symptoms of your baby teething? Well, sometimes teething may occur without much discomfort or symptoms at all, or perhaps the molars coming through may cause different symptoms to the front teeth, for example. Symptoms of teething in babies may include:

  • Fretfulness. Your little one might seem a little more irritable or fussier than usual.

  • Disturbed sleep. Teething pain or discomfort may cause your baby to wake up during the night.

  • A red cheek. One of your baby’s cheeks could seem flushed.

  • More dribbling than usual. It’s common for a teething baby to drool or dribble a lot when teething.

  • Chewing, gnawing or sucking on things. This could be a way for your baby to massage their own gums when teething, to ease the pressure from the tooth as it tries to erupt.

  • Rash around the mouth. Extra dribbling might cause a teething rash around your baby’s mouth and chin. Help prevent this by gently wiping their face to keep it free of saliva.

  • Pulling or rubbing at an ear. It may sound strange, but ear pulling is another common sign of teething in babies. Keep in mind, if your baby also has a fever or cold-like symptoms such as coughing or a runny nose, see your doctor as ear pulling can also be a sign of an ear infection.

  • Sore, red gums. The place where a tooth is coming through may be sore and inflamed.

These signs of teething are generally the same in breastfed or bottle-fed babies, or babies that are weaning, and you can continue to breastfeed even if your little one is teething.

You may have heard diarrhoea and fever when teething mentioned as possible signs of teething in babies, but there’s no research to back this up.

How to Soothe Your Teething Baby

Teething can be uncomfortable for your little one, and there’s no magic technique that works for every child, so try several things to see which one helps to soothe your baby’s teething symptoms:

  • Teething rings. These are a great (and safe) way of letting your baby massage their own gums when teething by chewing on a soft or textured object. Some types can be cooled in the fridge to give extra relief. To stay safe, never tie a teething ring to a string that’s looped around your baby’s neck or clipped to their top. Also, don’t put a teething ring in the freezer – this can make it too hard and cold for your little one’s sensitive gums.

  • Finger foods. If your baby is eating solid foods, or if you’re just getting started on weaning your baby, you could try offering your teething baby some healthy, texture-rich finger foods to chew on. Pieces of raw fruit and vegetables, such as carrots or apples could do the trick. A breadstick or piece of bread crust might also be satisfyingly crunchy for your baby. Rusks aren’t recommended though, because they usually contain sugar. Always supervise your child closely when they are eating, to avoid the risk of choking.

  • Hugs and cuddles. Cuddling your baby and talking in a soothing voice can both help comfort your little one if teething symptoms are causing distress, and it might also distract your child from the irritation of sore gums.

  • Distraction. Playing with your baby or introducing them to new songs and nursery rhymes might take your child’s mind off those teething woes for a little while.

  • Medicines. If nothing else seems to work and your baby or toddler seems to be in pain, ask your doctor or health visitor what pain relief medicine or gels might be suitable and safe for your little one.

Caring for Your Baby’s New Teeth

Your baby will need those teeth at least until he or she’s around 5 or 6 years old (when they start falling out to make way for ‘grown-up teeth’), so it’s important to start looking after them from the moment they first pop up.

In fact, experts recommend starting even earlier. Gently wiping your baby’s gums and inside of the mouth after feeds not only helps with oral hygiene, it’s a good way of establishing healthy habits by starting early as you mean to go on!

In addition to these early forms of ‘brushing’, avoid giving your child sugary drinks or snacks. You might find brushing tricky at first, especially if your baby doesn’t always feel like cooperating.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t manage to do a perfect job of brushing your little one’s teeth (or tooth) at first. The important thing is to make it a part of your child’s daily routine, and you’ll both get better at it with practice.

Here are a few tips for brushing your baby or toddler’s teeth:

  • Brush at least twice a day, with one being just before bed

  • Sit your baby on your knee and rest their head on your chest when brushing

  • When your child is older, they can stand in front of you with their head tilted back

  • Put a tiny smear of toothpaste on a baby toothbrush and brush each tooth in small circles, reaching all the surfaces

  • Encourage your child to spit the toothpaste out afterwards, but you don’t need to rinse – the toothpaste contains fluoride that protects your baby’s teeth. Rinsing will wash this away.

When your baby starts teething, it may be a good time to register your little one with a dentist. Dental treatment is free for children on the NHS, and it’s also free for you during pregnancy and until your child is 12 months old. To claim this free treatment, you’ll need a maternity exemption certificate that can be obtained from your doctor or midwife.

When to See the Doctor

If your little one is showing other symptoms like those of common childhood illnesses, it’s safest to tell your doctor or health visitor so an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.

As an example: Another condition that can cause sore gums is a yeast infection called oral thrush. To distinguish between oral thrush and teething symptoms, signs of oral thrush may include, white spots on the gums, tongue, lips, or inside your babies mouth that don’t rub off, reluctance to eat and sometimes a persistent nappy rash.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

Every baby is different, so what month they start teething may vary. Some babies may be born with a tooth or two, whilst other may not get their first tooth until they’re one year of age. However, on average, babies start teething around six months of age.

The Bottom Line

Teething can be a challenging time for your baby and you, especially if several teeth decide to erupt one after the other in quick succession. Try to keep in mind how important those teeth are, helping your child chew and bite into the nutritious foods that are fuelling their growth and development.

Plus, it won’t last forever – your little one will be smiling again before you know it, and there’s a bonus: Each new tooth that emerges will make that smile even more adorable than it was before.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the National Health Service (NHS). You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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