Teething is a big milestone for you and your baby. Some babies may not feel a thing, while it can be pretty uncomfortable for others. Don’t be surprised if your baby gets a bit upset when those pearly whites start coming through. It does vary, but the average age for a baby to get their first tooth is around six months old.
The first teeth to appear are usually the two bottom middle teeth, followed by the two top middle teeth. The last teeth to make an appearance are usually the second, or back, molars in the lower and upper back of the mouth. Most children will have all their baby teeth by about two and a half - there are 20 in total, 10 at the top and 10 at the bottom.
Common teething symptoms:
- Your baby's gum looks sore and red where a tooth is coming in
- Flushed red cheeks
- Your baby might chew, dribble and want to gnaw on things a lot
- Baby’s bowel motions might get looser and look different
- Your bundle of joy is a little less joyous – they might be cranky or a bit tearful, particularly at night when the pain can sometimes make it difficult for them to sleep
Easing the discomfort of your baby's teething:
- Give your baby something to chew on as this can help ease the pain of teething. Try a hard teething rusk. Just make sure you stay close to supervise, and rusks should be chewed when baby is sitting upright to reduce the risk of choking.
- Chilled sticks of cucumber or watermelon are good to gnaw on too – try them wrapped in muslin or in a baby mesh feeder to prevent pieces breaking off.
- Cold foods like apple purée or yoghurt straight from the fridge can help numb the pain.
- Cold drinks can soothe the whole mouth. Try chilling water, expressed breast milk (or formula) in the fridge.
- Giving your baby a teething ring or cold washcloth to chew can help ease the pain of sore gums. Chilling it in the fridge first may also give extra relief.
- Lightly massaging your baby's gums with a clean finger or clean damp wash cloth may help ease the pain.
Caring for baby’s teeth:
You need to start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they arrive. You can use a small soft baby toothbrush with a smudge of regular strength fluoride toothpaste. At this age the main thing is to get your baby used to the routine twice a day. One brushing should be in the morning and the other at night before your baby goes to bed.
Preventing decay: maintaining your baby’s smile.
No one is safe from decay. It can affect all of us, even your baby’s teeth. As well as regular brushing, here are a few ways to keep baby’s teeth in tip top shape.
What’s in the bottle - if using a bottle, only put milk (breastmilk or formula) or water in a bottle, not juice or other sweetened drinks. Sweet drinks such as cordial, juice, soft drink and flavoured milk should not be given to babies and toddlers as they are bad for developing teeth.
Just hanging out - if using a bottle for milk, try not to leave your baby with a bottle in his or her mouth for a long time, and don’t put them down to bed with a bottle. This is unsafe and the milk can pool around developing teeth and lead to decay. Encourage them to drink from a cup as soon as possible. A cup can be introduced from 6 months of age.
Sweets and treats – babies and toddlers don’t need sugar sweetened foods, treats and drinks in their diet. Choose healthy snacks between meals in an age-appropriate texture such as fresh fruit, veggies, sandwiches, cheese, crackers, rather than sweet biscuits.
Get a pro involved – as soon as your baby's teeth come through it's wise to enroll your baby to see a Dental Therapist to arrange their first check-up. Talk to your Plunket nurse about how to set up an appointment.
Ministry of Health. 2021. Healthy Eating Guidelines for New Zealand Babies and Toddlers (0-2 years old). Wellington: Ministry of Health.
The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.