Healthy living

Teething and your baby

Baby sucking its thumb

Baby teeth

Healthy baby teeth allow a toddler to enjoy a nutritious diet, aid in proper speech development, enhance the child’s appearance and contribute to good self-esteem.

Baby teeth also help to maintain the space for permanent teeth, guiding them into their correct position.

Early loss of a baby tooth can reduce the space for the permanent tooth, resulting in crowded permanent teeth.

Teething

A baby’s first tooth usually appears at around 6 months, however this can vary greatly.

By the age of 3 a child should have a full set of 20 baby teeth (10 in each jaw).

Table: General guide of when baby teeth appear
Tooth type Age

Central incisors

6 to 10 months

Lateral incisors

10 to 16 months

Canine

17 to 23 months

1st baby molar

14 to 18 months

2nd baby molar

23 to 31 months

It is not uncommon for babies to experience some discomfort when new teeth break through the gums.

Teething signs and symptoms

Symptoms that indicate your baby may be teething include:

Baby sucking on teething ring
  • red swollen gums
  • flushed cheeks
  • dribbling
  • irritability or restlessness
  • a slight fever
  • pulling the ear on the same side as the erupting tooth
  • sucking fingers and fists.

Mild teething problems may be eased by the baby chewing on hard objects such as chilled teething rings or sugar free rusks.

Alternatively you can give your baby a dummy or wet flannel to bite on. It may also help to rub your child’s gums with a clean finger or the back of a cold spoon.

See your dentist or doctor before using any pain reliever or oral gel containing anaesthetic, or if problems persist.

Cleaning baby’s mouth

Mother wiping her baby’s gums with a wet clothStart cleaning gums before the teeth appear.

At first, use a clean damp cloth to wipe the gums, and when a few teeth are present use a small, soft toothbrush with no toothpaste.

When your child is 18 months, you can use a small pea-sized amount of low strength fluoride toothpaste.

If your child is 6 or over, use a small amount of standard strength fluoride toothpaste and encourage your child to spit out, not swallow and not rinse after brushing.

Close view of a toothbrush head featuring a pea-sized portion of toothpaste

Where to get help

Dental Health Services

You can also

  • See your dental health professional
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Baby teeth are important, so take good care of your child's teeth.
  • Teething should not cause severe illness. If your child has a fever or diarrhoea, see your doctor.
  • Avoid choking by always being present when your child is eating.
  • A low fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children under 6 years.

Acknowledgements
Dental Health Services

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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