When babies are born, the large majority are born with no teeth. When the teeth eventually do erupt through the gums, this process is known as teething.
Most commonly, teething will occur for the first time around 6 months. Some babies can experience teething as early as 3-4 months, while others won't get signs of their first tooth until later in the first year of life. Teething may continue until all their baby teeth have erupted through the gums, which occurs by around 27 months or just after 2 years old.
There are 20 teeth in a full set of baby teeth, known as primary teeth. Most little ones will have all 20 by their 3rd birthday. In general, they'll get the two bottom middle incisors first, followed by the top middle centrals. Then the top outer middle lateral incisors, followed by the bottom outer middle two. The age and order these teeth and the remaining 12 will come through will vary.
Symptoms of teething will vary in frequency and intensity. Symptoms may flare-up in the few days prior to the tooth erupting, including:
Red or swollen gums
Dribbling more than usual
Chewing on things, like their fists and toys
Has a blue-grey bubble on the gum (called an eruption cyst)
Pulling the ear on the same side as their incoming tooth
While teething, your little one may be uncomfortable, but there are some things you can try:
Pressure on gums – wash your hands and use a clean finger or some wet gauze
Cool relief – a cold spoon or cool cloth dipped in milk they can chew on may bring some comfort
Teething gels – follow instructions as directed on the label
Paracetamol or ibuprofen
Looking after your Kids' Teeth
It’s important to care for your child’s teeth properly from the start, to avoid any problems later in life. You can begin wiping down your baby’s gums using a clean, damp cloth early on before teeth pop up to get them used to the sensations.
Once a tooth pops up, brush their tooth/ teeth twice a day using a small, soft toothbrush, just using water. From 18 months, use kids’ toothpaste to start to get them used to the taste.
Other tips for brushing little teeth:
Brush for 2 minutes
Play a song/ using a tooth brushing app to distract little ones for this long
Let them have a turn, then you have a turn to make sure the teeth are properly cleaned
Brush in a gentle, circular motion
Don't forget to brush inside, outside and along the top of the teeth
Brush along the gum line to clean gums too
Spit, but don't rinse with water after brushing to avoid washing off the fluoride in the toothpaste, which is protective for teeth
Make tooth brushing time exciting
Talk to them about why we clean our teeth; they're smarter than we give them credit for
Little ones should see the dentist for the first time once they have teeth and definitely by the time they turn 2 years old. Early dentist trips will help get them used to the experience of sitting in the chair, wearing glasses etc and minimise fear of the dentist.
Children should visit the dentist once every 6-12 months to prevent problems, such as tooth decay, from going undetected and becoming severe.