Symptoms of teething

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 signs that your baby is teething, 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 Does Teething Start?

Just when that first tooth starts poking through varies a lot from one baby to the next. 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 his or her 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.

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Teething has a way of sneaking up on you unexpectedly. The 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 teething signs and symptoms, so you’ll be able to tell straight away that your baby has started teething.

So, what are the symptoms of baby teething? Well, sometimes a tooth may appear without any discomfort or symptoms at all. In other cases, symptoms of teething could 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 his or her own gums to ease the pressure from the tooth as it tries to erupt.

  • Rash around the mouth. Extra dribbling might cause a rash around your baby’s mouth and chin. Help prevent this by gently wiping his or her 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.

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

Common signs of teething

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 seems to work for your baby:

  • Teething rings. These are a great (and safe) way of letting your teething baby massage his or her own gums 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 his or her 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 carrot or apple 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 he or she is 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 the teething is causing distress, and it might also distract you child from the irritation of sore gums.

  • Distraction. Playing with your baby or introducing him or her 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 good 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 his or her head on your chest when brushing

  • When your child is older, he or she can stand in front of you with his or her 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 is 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. Other symptoms of oral thrush could include a white coating on the tongue that’s hard to rub off, reluctance to eat and sometimes a persistent nappy rash.


Signs that your baby is teething can include:
• Fretfulness
• Disturbed sleep
• One red cheek
• More dribbling than usual
• Chewing, gnawing or sucking on fingers or objects
• Rash around the mouth
• Pulling or rubbing at an ear
• Sore, red gums.

Here’s how to soothe a teething baby:
• Give your baby a teething ring to chew on
• If your little one’s weaning or eating solids, give some crunchy or textured finger foods like carrot or crunchy bread crusts
• Comfort your teething child with plenty of hugs and cuddles
• Sing songs and play games to distract your child
• If nothing else is working, ask your doctor or health visitor to recommend a pain relief medicine or gel.

Most babies cut their first tooth at around 6 months old, but some do start teething early, so it is possible that your baby is teething at 3 months old.

Check for symptoms of teething like fussiness, excessive dribbling and sore, red gums. If you aren’t sure, ask your health visitor or doctor.

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 his or her 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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