Teething: the first six months

Babies are born with a full set of 20 teeth hidden in the gums. These can start appearing from around five or six months, but this varies from baby from baby, with some starting teething at three months, and others as late as 12 months. In some rare cases, they can even be born with them!

Each of the baby teeth slowly emerge – or erupt – from the gum over a few weeks or months. The first teeth to come through are usually the two bottom front ones. Next comes the two top middle, and then others at the side and back.

The teeth can seem very spaced out at first but it’s nothing to worry about; as the full set comes through, the teeth will move into a more normal position.

Little buds ... Your baby's milk teeth will be placeholders for their adult teeth, so need to be looked after.
Little buds ... Your baby's milk teeth will be placeholders for their adult teeth, so need to be looked after. 

How can I tell if my baby's teething?
There are a few signs to look for if you think your child may be teething:

  • Many parents notice that their child is drooling a lot more than usual around the time their teeth start to come in. It's thought babies do this because the saliva helps cool their inflamed gums. The extra saliva around the mouth can also lead to a rash on the face.
  • Teething children can put things in their mouth more than usual. This is because chewing can help ease pressure in the gums. 
  • You may notice the gums, and even the cheeks, getting red and inflamed.
  • Your child may appear to be in pain, especially for the first few teeth, or could just seem a bit cranky.

Cold items can help ease sore gums, so try offering a teething ring that's been in the fridge, or foods such as cold fruit purée or yoghurt

Some parents think teething can cause a raised temperature or diarrhoea, but experts aren't sure if these are side effects or unrelated illnesses that can occur around this time in their development. 

What can I do to help?
The following ideas can help your baby remain comfortable while teething:

  • Offer something for your baby to chew on, such as a wet wash cloth or a solid silicone-based teething ring.
  • Some babies prefer feeling cold items on their gums, so try giving a teething ring that's been in the fridge, or cold foods, such as fruit purée or yoghurt.
  • If your baby is in pain, you can rub a small amount of teething gel directly onto the gum. This numbs the area for around 20 minutes, so don’t do it right before feeding time, as your child won’t be able to suck properly. Follow the instructions on the gel packaging so you don’t overuse it.
  • Babies who are in a lot of pain and who are older than three months can benefit from a dose of sugar-free infant paracetamol or ibuprofen. Follow the correct dosage instructions on the packaging.

Other worries
If you see a small bruise or red lump on your baby’s gum, don’t worry - this is a teething blister or eruption cyst, and can show up before your baby’s tooth erupts. You don’t need to do anything with them, as the blisters usually go away when the tooth appears.

If your child hasn't had any teeth come through by 14 months it could be a sign of something more serious - in that case, talk to your doctor.