What is it? What are the symptoms? What are the treatments?

What is teething?

Teething starts in babies at around six months, but can happen later or earlier, and occasionally babies are even born with a first tooth in place.

It can cause distress to some babies, who cry and whimper more than usual and may be reluctant to feed.

The first teeth to emerge are usually the lower front two, followed by the front upper pair, and you should start cleaning them with a soft baby toothbrush and a small blob of toothpaste as soon as they start breaking through the gums.

Most toddlers have all their teeth by the age of two and a half.

What are the symptoms of Teething?

The first thing you'll see is a whitish bump on the gum, and your baby may dribble more than usual. Other signs she's teething may include:

  • Putting his hands and anything you hand him into his mouth
  • Grumbling and whingeing as if uncomfortable
  • Having red, flushed-looking cheeks without a fever
  • Crying more than usual during the night
  • An upset tummy or nappy rash, caused by swallowing the extra saliva produced in response to teething
  • Refusing feeds or fussing during feeds.

If your baby has any of these symptoms with a fever, consult your GP as teething doesn't cause illness so there may be an underlying infection.

What are the treatments and remedies of Teething?

There are over-the-counter preparations you can try for teething, including anaesthetising gels specifically formulated for infants and homeopathic powders or oral solutions. Speak to your pharmacist about what is available, and check the labels for how to use them properly. 

Other than these, offering infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to ease discomfort is really the only other treatment. 

You can help ease the symptoms by offering your baby a chilled (not frozen) gel-filled teething ring; giving her hardish foods to chew on, such as rusks or toast or cool foods like sticks of cucumber and yogurt (always with supervision in case of choking). 

Smear a little petroleum jelly along his lower lip and chin to prevent saliva from making the skin sore, as teething does tend to make babies dribble more.

This guide 

The information in this Bounty A-Z of Family Health is not a substitute for an examination, diagnosis or treatment by a doctor, midwife, health visitor or any other qualified health professional. If in doubt, always speak to a doctor.

Bounty will not be held responsible or liable for any injury, loss, damage, or illness, however this occurs or appears, after using the information given on this website and in particular the A-Z of Family Health.

Further help

For health advice and information 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the NHS offers call and web services. You can also visit NHS websites for services, health information and health news at nhs.uk 

  • England – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs.uk 
  • Scotland – call 111 from any landline or mobile phone free of charge, or visit nhs24.com 
  • Wales – call 0845 4647 , or visit nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk 
  • Northern Ireland – visit hscni.net