By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Almost all babies are born without teeth. The process of teeth about to emerge, and then emerging above the gum line, is referred to as ‘teething’. This process generally begins a few days before you can see the tooth, and lasts a few days after the tooth has ‘come through’. Baby teeth usually start to appear when baby is 4-7 months, though it can start earlier or later. If teething occurs earlier it is not usually a concern. If your baby is very late to teethe, see your dentist. The first teeth to appear are usually the bottom front teeth (central incisors). One to two months later, the top two front (and then upper two side) teeth appear. Most children have a full set of baby teeth (20 teeth) by three years of age.


Teething is often painful for babies. They may be irritable or cry frequently, and sleep may be disturbed. Some babies have no symptoms of pain. Babies tend to drool more while teething. They also like putting things in their mouth and chewing on them. This may help ease discomfort. Babies’ gums and cheeks may be inflamed (red), and she may pull at the ear on the side where the tooth is coming through. Some parents report mild fever and/or nappy rash when teething. Most doctors do not attribute these conditions to teething.


You can ease your baby’s discomfort while teething. Offer teething toys and rings for baby to chew on. These can be chilled in the fridge beforehand as the cold helps soothe her inflamed gums. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol may ease discomfort. Do not give your baby aspirin. If you think your baby is in pain, or if she has a fever, do not assume these are due to teething. Rather, consult your doctor. Once your baby has teeth, take care of them. Use an infant toothbrush and a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste to brush. Consult your dentist for further advice.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 25 February 2015 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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