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Baby teeth

Publish date: 17/08/2015

Tags: Pregnancy , Teeth

 baby teeth dental


Most teeth start to appear, or erupt, at around age six months and teething will most often be complete by age two. Children eventually have 20 baby teeth.  

Sleepless nights, red cheeks, teary babies (and parents) are all familiar aspects of teething. 

There’s some bad advice available on this topic, so here we provide some information to help you during this trying time.

Symptoms of teething 

Your child may show one or more of these symptoms:

  • drooling for up to a month before the tooth arrives
  • gum rubbing
  • sucking
  • irritability
  • wakefulness
  • ear rubbing
  • facial rash
  • decreased appetite
  • mild temperature.

No one is sure why babies produce so much saliva during teething. Some think that it’s because additional muscle movement from chewing stimulates the saliva glands causing additional saliva to be produced. Others suggest that the tooth is at first recognised as a foreign body in the mouth, so the extra saliva is to help it fall out of the mouth to stop the baby swallowing a potentially harmful object.

The lower front incisor teeth usually come through first followed by the four upper front teeth. This is followed over the next few months by the eruption of the molars (back teeth) and then finally the canine teeth.

How can I help my baby when they’re teething?  

Let them chew on a chilled object such as a teething ring, fruit or vegetables.

Avoid rusks and biscuits as they contain sugar which will harm the teeth.

Your baby may need more cuddles and reassurance as it’s a painful experience.

Discomfort can be reduced by giving your child remedies such as Calpol or baby paracetamol.

For suggestions on the best approach for your baby, you may wish to discuss this with your health visitor or a pharmacist.

Teething shouldn’t make your child ill so if they develop fever or diarrhoea this isn’t usually related to teething and should be treated. If necessary see your GP.  

Dental care and products 

The message here is start brushing early. Research has shown that children whose teeth are brushed before they’re one year old are less likely to have decay later. It’s best to clean your baby’s first teeth by wrapping a clean piece of gauze or a clean flannel around your finger, or buying finger brushes and rubbing the teeth and gums gently to rub away plaque.

Top tips for caring for your young child's teeth

  • Assist - Dentists have found that most children can’t clean their teeth adequately until they can write, so it’s best if you clean their teeth for them. Sit them on your lap and get them to open their mouth wide. Tip their head back while you clean their teeth. Move the toothbrush in small circular movements and make sure you get all the bits of food out. Brush all the surfaces of the teeth and the gumline. Use a soft baby toothbrush.
  • Toothpaste - Use age appropriate toothpaste. Don’t use adult toothpaste before the age of six because it contains too much fluoride which increases the risk of mottled, or discoloured, teeth. Find a toothpaste that’s marked 1000ppm fluoride on the tube.
  • Regular cleaning - Brush teeth twice a day, in the morning and before bed.
  • Visiting the dentist - Arrange to take your child with you when you’re going to the dentist for a routine check up. The first dental checkup should be when your child is around two and a half to three years old.
  • Fluoride drops - Fluoride can help prevent tooth decay but it’s important to only give the right amount. Your local water supplier should be able to tell you how much fluoride is in your drinking water. Your dentist will advise you about giving your baby fluoride supplements.
  • Diet - Avoid sugary snacks and drinks. Sugar causes dental decay which in turn leads to pain. If your child attends a party or an event where there’s lots of sugar a top tip is to eat a small piece of cheese to neutralize the acid attack from the sugar or drink plenty of water.   

Treatment for children up to the age of 18 is free at an NHS dentist. 

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