Teething normally starts between 6 and 8 months, but it can start earlier or later than this. It is not unusual for babies to be born with one or more teeth! It is also not unusual for babies not to have started teething by their first birthday. There are no hard and fast rules – all babies are different.

Does teething cause pain?

Some babies sail through the process and are showing off their first teeth before you know it. For others it can be an uncomfortable time, causing distress to both you and your baby. There’s no real explanation for the way that teething babies can sometimes seem distressed when a tooth is coming through. For some babies, a day or two of restlessness can ease once a tooth has come through.

Some of the signs of teething you may see:

  • dribbling more than usual
  • flushed cheeks
  • sore, red gums
  • loss of appetite
  • irritability and disturbed sleep
  • restlessness
  • chewing and biting on everything.

Easing teething

Teething can be a difficult time for babies. Here are some ways you can help to relieve your baby’s discomfort:

  • cuddle her – hugs and cuddles will help comfort and reassure your baby if she is distressed
  • rub her gums – lightly massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger will soothe her and help to alleviate the pain
  • teething rings – babies like to chew and bite, so teething rings can help sometimes, but make sure you watch your baby when she is biting on the ring
  • sooth her sore chin – some babies may dribble excessively and give themselves a sore chin, neck and chest.Try to keep her chin as dry as possible and change any wet clothing. A simple barrier cream can help to keep her skin soft and smooth, and may ease chapped areas.
  • New advice recommends that teething gels should not be used. If you are unsure how to treat teething, please ask your health visitor/public health nurse.

Looking after your baby’s teeth

From the moment her first tooth appears, you should brush your baby’s teeth. Register her with a dentist as soon as possible and make sure she has regular check-ups with the dental team at least twice a year.

Brush your baby’s teeth using a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. Add a smear of 1000ppm fluoride toothpaste – fluoride helps to strengthen the teeth and prevent tooth decay. If you are not certain, ask your health visitor or public health nurse.

There are various ways to position your baby when you brush her teeth. You could try sitting her on a changing mat on the floor, on your lap, or in a baby chair.

Toothbrushing should be introduced as a fun part of your baby’s daily routine. You might find that a good time for toothbrushing is playtime or bathtime.

Make sure you brush her teeth last thing at night and at least once during the day. Always supervise toothbrushing and never leave a baby or small child alone with either a toothbrush or toothpaste.

To protect your baby’s teeth, it’s important to choose foods without added sugar, sugar is the main cause of tooth decay, so don’t give your baby sugary snacks, especially between meals. The safest drinks for your baby’s teeth are milk and water.

You can introduce a cup from 6 months, and aim to have your baby no longer drinking from a feeding bottle by her first birthday. There’s a risk that feeding from a bottle for too long can push your baby’s new teeth out of alignment, so try and make sure that your baby has started drinking from a cup by the time she is about one year old. There is no risk to your baby’s teeth from breastfeeding.

Introducing ‘Childsmile’

Aim to register your baby with a dentist as soon afterbirth or at least as soon as the first tooth appears. From then on take your child to the dental practice and attend as advised by the dental team.

Childsmile is a dental programme designed to ensure you get the support you need to give your child’s teeth the best possible start. Childsmile is aimed at providing this support from birth. The programme makes sure that you get the right help you need at home as well as at the dentist to keep your baby’s teeth healthy.

You will first hear about Childsmile from your health visitor/public health nurse who will introduce you to the programme and can arrange for a dental health support worker to contact you, or direct you to a Childsmile dental practice.

Every child will receive a free dental pack containing a drinking cup, a toothbrush and at least 1000 ppm fluoride toothpaste with oral health messages.

At Childsmile nurseries, daily supervised nursery toothbrushing will be available.

Additional preventive care such as fluoride varnish (external site) can be provided at your dental practice or in some nurseries.

For more information visit the Childsmile website. (external site)

Last Updated: 24 January 2018
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