Most babies cut their first tooth when they’re around six months. But your baby could have his first tooth any time between three months and his first birthday. Usually, but not always, this first tooth appears at the front on the bottom gum.
Although not all babies experience teething pain, many will have some discomfort and drooling before the first tooth breaks through. Your baby may have trouble settling at night while he’s teething and may seem more irritable than normal. The good news is this period of discomfort will not last.
If your baby's gums are hurting, you can soothe them by massaging them gently with a clean finger or giving him something cold to put in his mouth like a chilled teething ring or partially frozen flannel. If your baby is six months or older, you could try a peeled carrot or cucumber that’s been chilled in the fridge. However, if your baby already has one tooth it’s best to avoid giving him food that he can bite into, in case of choking.
A range of teething gels and powders is also available from your pharmacist. Teething gels usually contain a local anaesthetic and an antiseptic, which ease pain and prevent infection. A small amount rubbed into the gum with a clean finger will only last for about 20 minutes but it can help your baby to settle if he is particularly uncomfortable. It is not recommended that you use teething gels more than six times in a 24-hour period. Don’t forget to read the instructions before giving these products to your baby.
Your baby's gums can sometimes become inflamed when he cuts a tooth, which may make his cheeks appear red and swollen.
You may worry that your baby has a fever or diarrhoea when a tooth is about to come through, but teething shouldn't cause illness. If your baby seems ill, it's more likely he's coming down with a cold, an infection or a tummy bug. Take him to your GP if you are concerned about any symptoms.
It's best to start brushing your baby's teeth as soon as they start to come through. Use a soft baby toothbrush and a smear of toothpaste. Look for baby toothpaste that says 1000ppm fluoride on the packaging. Try to gently clean both the surface of your baby's teeth and the gumline when you brush. In some cases, your dentist can prescribe fluoride supplements for your baby’s teeth. Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay, but it's important to give the right amount. Too much may damage your baby's developing teeth.
Try not to put your baby to bed with a bottle or breastfeed him to sleep. Formula and breastmilk can pool in his mouth at night and lead to tooth decay.
If you are giving your baby formula milk or water, try offering it in a beaker rather than a bottle once his teeth start coming through. Choose a beaker with a soft spout that allows the milk or water to flow freely. This will be better for your baby's emerging teeth, and it'll help him to learn to sip better too.
Your baby's last teeth usually come through in his second year. These are the second molars, found in the upper and lower back of his mouth. So by his second birthday, he should have a full set of 20 baby teeth.
Bear in mind that all babies develop differently and some more quickly than others. If your baby’s development is worrying you, talk to your GP or health visitor for advice and information.