Teeth do not usually appear until your baby is 6 months old or later. They may show signs of teething from about 13 weeks.
Your child should have most of their 20 baby teeth by the time they're 2 and a half years old.
Signs your baby is teething
If your baby is teething they might:
- have red, flushed cheeks
- dribble - you should wipe this away from the skin folds on their neck because it can cause soreness
- chew on their fists or on their toys more than usual
- have sore and tender gums and cry more
- have a nappy rash
Non-urgent advice: Contact your public health nurse or GP if your child:
- has a high temperature (more than 38 degrees Celsius)
- has diarrhoea
- generally seems unwell
This is not caused by teething.
How to help your teething baby
It's upsetting to see your baby in discomfort from teething. Comforting and playing with them will help distract them.
Tips for helping a teething baby
- Try giving your baby something to chew on, such as a cool teething ring.
- Massage your baby's sore gums with a sugar-free teething gel.
- Use mild sugar-free pain relief if your baby wakes at night and is irritable.
- Give them cold water to drink - this helps to keep babies hydrated and may also soothe their gums.
- Give them healthy foods to chew on, such as pieces of carrot or apple, or breadsticks - only do this if they're 6 months or older.
- Stay close to your baby when they're eating in case they choke.
Chewing on a teething ring can help soothe a baby’s gums as well as distract them from the pain.
Use teething rings that are big enough so your child will not choke on them. Keep a spare clean teething ring in the fridge.
Never tie a teething ring around a baby’s neck. This could strangle them.
Check the product instructions on teething ring hygiene and how long to cool the ring for.
Never put the ring in the freezer as the temperature could damage your baby’s gums.
You can also use a cold wet facecloth for a baby to chew on. Make sure the facecloth is clean.
Teething gels and pain relief
Sugar-free teething gels are available over the counter from the pharmacy. They contain a mild local anaesthetic which helps numb any pain. These are for babies older than 4 months.
If your baby is still in discomfort after using teething gels, consider giving them sugar-free paracetamol or ibuprofen medicine for babies. Do not use ibuprofen medicines if your baby is under the age of 3 months.
Contact your GP or pharmacist for information on the safe use of gels and pain relief.
Always follow the instructions on the leaflet and the packaging. Make sure you use the right amount and only as recommended. If you're unsure, ask your GP or pharmacist.
Never use products on your baby that are meant for adults or for older children. These products are not suitable for relieving the symptoms of teething in babies.
Amber teething jewellery
We do not recommend using amber teething jewellery for your baby. These can be necklaces, anklets, or bracelets.
Amber teething jewellery can choke your baby.
Never put jewellery, cords or string around your baby’s neck
Homeopathic teething products
There are some unlicensed homeopathic products and remedies sold online. These are not safe for young infants and babies.
Research into these products shows that they may cause serious side effects.
- difficulty breathing
- excessive sleepiness
- constipation and difficulty peeing
This warning does not apply to Nelson's homeopathic teething products, sold in Ireland with the brand name of ‘Teetha’.
Nappy rash and teething
Babies who are teething may get nappy rash and sore bottoms. Check your baby’s bottom and change their nappies often.
Using a barrier nappy cream may help. Leaving the baby’s nappy off for a period of time, although messy, is soothing for babies.
Teething and crying
Anything that causes your baby to cry more is difficult for you too. If you're tired and stressed, try asking for help from friends or family.
Thumb-sucking and soothers
Some small children suck their thumb because they find it soothing. They may develop this habit at around 18 months.
Research has shown that breastfeeding up to 12 months of age can help reduce tooth decay.
Get advice from your public health nurse or GP if you plan to continue breastfeeding after your baby is 12 months old.
When to start brushing your baby's teeth
Before teeth appear, clean your baby's gums twice a day with a clean soft wash cloth or gauze.
When your baby's first tooth appears you can introduce gentle toothbrushing twice a day. This is normally at around 6 months of age.
Use water and a small, soft toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste at this age.
Brushing your baby’s teeth will get them used to teeth brushing as part of their daily routine.
You can set a good example by letting them watch as you brush your teeth.
First dentist appointment
Take your baby to the dentist when their first teeth start to appear at around 6 months of age.
Your dentist will check that their teeth are developing correctly. They will show you how to care for your baby's teeth.
They can also give advice on how to help with problems such as teething.
Babies with tongue tie
Some babies are not able to move and stretch their tongues freely because they have a short, tight or thick frenulum (the skin attaching the tongue to the base of the mouth). This is known as 'tongue tie'.
It's hard for children with a tongue tie to remove food debris from around their teeth because of their limited tongue movement. This can lead to tooth decay.
Some babies may need a frenectomy (frenotomy). This is where the frenulum causing the tongue tie is released in a minor operation.
When to get medical advice
Urgent advice: Contact your GP urgently if your baby:
- has a temperature of more than 38 degrees Celsius
- is lethargic and drowsy
These symptoms are not caused by teething.
Teething may cause a mild rash on a baby’s chin or neck, but it does not cause a widespread rash.
Babies who are not drinking and not having plenty of wet nappies per day might be dehydrated.
Contact your GP for advice if you're worried about any symptoms in your baby
You can get more advice on caring for your baby's teeth from your dentist or public health nurse.