Teething and teeth
Your baby has been moody or fussy for a few days now, for no apparent reason. Until you see that first tooth appearing and now you understand. The days of that gummy smile are numbered!
When do babies start teething?
The first teething symptoms in NZ generally happen at around six or seven months. However, every baby is different, and it’s not unheard of for a baby to be born with a tooth! Some kids don’t have teeth arrive until months later, up until a year is totally normal.
There’s no way of knowing when does teething start, the length of time the process takes, or how much distress it will cause your child. For one baby, the tooth might magically appear overnight with little to no pain, while another child might have weeks of frustration. If you’re watching your little one in pain and asking how long does teething last? The answer is: it may feel like forever, but it will be over soon.
Teething can be something with hereditary aspects, so ask you and your partner’s parents about what teething was like for you both. You may have teethed early, or late, or breezed through it (let’s hope you breezed through it).
Which teeth come in first and how many will there be?
In total, you can expect 20 primary teeth. This is twelve less than the full set of 32 permanent adult teeth. Most kids have their full set of primary teeth by two or three years old.
These teeth then will be lost from about age six or seven, when they turn into ‘wiggly’ teeth, fall out, and are replaced by their adult teeth. This process takes a number of years, with kids having their full adult teeth by age 12 or 13. These are all average ages, and individual kids will all differ.
However, despite all the variations, the first tooth to arrive will almost always be either of the bottom front teeth.
Teething stages for toddlers
- Age six to seven months, you can expect the incisors, two central bottom and two central top teeth.
- Age seven to nine months, two more incisors will arrive, so your child will have eight teeth, four in the top, four at the bottom.
- Age 10 to 14 months, the first molars arrive, giving them far better chewing abilities.
- At 15 to 18 months, the canines/ pointed teeth come through.
- At two to three years, the second molars arrived, which are the second set of ‘double’ teeth at the back.
What are the first signs of teething?
Baby teething symptoms vary across children, even siblings will have different experiences. The list below has a list of symptoms that a child may experience. They may have all of them, or hardly any of them. If any of these side effects of teething occur for an extended period without any teeth arriving, ask your doctor to check to make sure everything is OK.
Lumps in gums: You may sometimes be able to see or lump in the gum for several weeks before the tooth arrives.
Irritability: Your baby might be fussier or grumpier than normal. They are in pain, and they just want it to stop. The discomfort is generally worse when the first teeth are coming in, and then later on when the molars arrive, due to their bigger size.
So how do I know if my baby is teething?
Drooling: From about three to four months old, your baby may start drooling more often than normal. This is because teething stimulates drooling.
Coughing: This extra saliva from drooling can cause your baby to cough or gag. Generally, you don’t need to worry about this if you baby seems healthy, has no fever, or no other symptoms of a cold or flu.
Chin rash: Drooling means the skin around your baby’s chin and mouth may become irritated. Wipe their mouth a few times a day to remove drool.
Biting and gnawing: Teething babies like to chew on everything they come across. The pressure from biting and gumming on something can help to provide relief to the pressure under the gums.
Cheek rubbing and ear pulling: Just like in adults, tooth pain can sometimes refer to the ear or cheeks, especially when the back molars are causing problems. Your baby may be rubbing their cheeks or pulling on their ears. This will also cause that characteristic pink-cheeked look that teething babies often have.
Diarrhoea: There is debate if this is a symptom of teething, but parents often say their baby’s bowel movements are looser than normal. This is attributed to extra saliva being swallowed. If you baby has diarrhoea for more than two to three bowel movements, chat to your doctor, as this may or may not be related to teething.
Low-grade fever: A slight fever is loosely linked to teething. If your baby has a low grade fever for two or more days, a trip to the doctor is a good idea to rule out any other problem.
Disrupted sleep: Pain is hard to sleep with, and your child may struggle to get to sleep, and wake up more often at night. This is more common with the first few teeth and then when the molars come in.
Cold like symptoms: Some children may show symptoms of having a cold. For a baby, runny nose and teething may be linked, or a cough can be due to the baby putting their hands being in their mouth more often.
How do you soothe a teething baby?
There are a range of ways that you can help your baby with teething pain. Not all techniques work on all babies, but hopefully you may find one that works for your child.
Encourage chewing: Having teething rings, especially water-filled ones, or a range of other firm-but-soft chew-appropriate items can help to offset the pressure and provide some pain relief.
Keep it cold: A bottle of cold water can help, although the sucking motion may irritate gums. Try a cup of cold water if that’s the case. Cold foods may also help, like chilled apple sauce or yoghurt.
Teething gels: Some people say these work great, others say they don’t. Get an over-the-counter teething gel and try it yourself.
Baby Paracetamol: Check with your doctor before giving your child any pain relief. They can advise the correct amount to ensure your child stays safe.
If at any point you are unsure, or the problem is not alleviating, ask your doctor for advice, or call the health helpline. Please note the amber beads have no scientific research that supports their use, and when worn around their neck, present a choking hazard.
How do I look after my baby’s teeth?
Look after your baby’s teeth in order to avoid painful dentist visits, ensure they learn to speak well, and helps them to eat solids. The health of these teeth also helps to ensure the permanent adult teeth come in better, and sets a good routine for their care. Once they have a tooth, check every month for signs of decay.
Brush the teeth twice a day with a small, soft brush, and children’s fluoride toothpaste. There may be some resistance to this but try to persist, it is for the best.
Register with the community oral health service on 0800 TALKTEETH (825 583). This is a free service that will help you to look after your baby’s teeth.
From about six months, it’s possible to teach them how to drink from a cup. Use a sipper cup to start with. This will help you with weaning when you’re ready, but also is good for their teeth.
FAQ about teething and teeth
How long do babies teething last?
Every child is different. While some will start teething at six months and be complete by two years of age, with only a short period of pain during teething, other children take longer and experience more irritation and pain. One tooth may pop up overnight, or it may take several days to come through.
Is my baby teething at 3 months?
It is possible for a child to be teething at three months. Check the mouth, the first teeth to come through are the bottom middle ones. Is there a bump under the gum?
Should I let my baby chew on his hands?
When a child is teething, chewing on things can help alleviate some of the pressure in their gums. They can chew their hands, or try a teething ring with cold water inside.
What can I give my 3 month old for teething?
Speak to your doctor about baby Paracetamol. There are also gels that can be applied to the gums to help numb them.
Does gripe water help with teething?
Gripe water is an American concept and is a water with a range of herbs and sugar in it. There is no evidence it helps with teething and it’s not one of the accepted teething remedies in NZ. Check with your doctor before administering any medication, to ensure that the herbs aren’t harmful to your child.
Is teething pain worse at night?
Babies and children will feel more pain at night as they are not as distracted as they are during the day. Speak to your doctor regarding use of baby Paracetamol if they can’t sleep, or if they wake frequently at night.
What can I give my 4 month old for teething?
Speak to your doctor, although there are teething gels and baby Paracetamol to help with the pain.
What is the best natural remedy for baby teething pain?
The best thing for teething is chewing on cold things, to numb the area and release pressure. Try letting them gnaw on your fingers, or use a cold spoon to rub their gums with. Try a teething ring to chew on, particularly one that has been refrigerated.
Can you breastfeed during teething?
If your baby only has teeth on their bottom gums, you don’t need to stop breast feeding. It’s only once the top teeth come through that there may be an issue with biting.
Is it OK to give my child juice?
It’s best to give your child either milk, or water, rather than fruit juice. Juice has a lot of sugar. Also, avoid letting your child fall asleep with a bottle of milk—that has sugars in it which can cause cavities.