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Teething symptoms and how to soothe a teething baby

When will baby's teeth appear?

Babies' teeth start to appear from around six months.

The loss of that cute, toothless grin is a big step towards being able to eat solid food later, but can bring with it some pain and upset for babies and some hard work soothing a teething baby for parents.

Babies develop at different rates. In rare cases, some babies are born with a tooth while others may still not have any teeth by their first birthday.

Look for the bottom front teeth (incisors) coming through first, usually followed by the top front teeth.

Most babies will have all their milk (or primary) teeth by the time they are two and a half.

Symptoms of teething

Some teeth grow without causing the baby any discomfort at all. In other cases, parents may notice symptoms of teething:

  • Sore, red gum around where the tooth is coming through
  • Flushed cheeks
  • Baby dribbling more, gnawing and chewing or fretful.
  • Poor appetite
  • Disturbed sleep

Soothing a teething baby

Here are tips to soothe the discomfort of teething:

  • Under supervision, give the baby something hard to chew on. A special teething ring is an option but a crust of bread, breadstick or a peeled carrot may work as well. Teething rings can be cooled in the fridge, but should not be frozen. Even if baby keeps dropping them, teething rings should not be tied around a baby's neck. A wet cold flannel may be as effective. Don't dip teething rings in anything sugary. Most rusks should be avoided because of their sugar content. Even new baby teeth need to be protected from decay caused by sugar.
  • A cool sugar-free drink can help to soothe a baby's gums. Water is best.
  • If the baby is dribbling a lot, remember to keep wiping their chin to prevent rashes.
  • Try to distract a fussy, teething baby by playing.
  • Babies over three to four months old may benefit from age-appropriate sugar-free teething gel. These often contain a mild anaesthetic and sometimes an antiseptic. Apply it to the affected area with a clean finger. If a younger baby is troubled by teething, seek advice from your health visitor or GP.
  • Age-appropriate baby pain relief paracetamol or ibuprofen may help teething pain.
  • An infant's gums may feel better when gentle pressure is placed on them. Try massaging the baby's gums with a clean finger.
  • Some teething babies have a slightly raised temperature. This is lower than a fever in babies which is 37.5C or above. If you have concerns, seek medical advice.
  • Don't stop breastfeeding when your baby's teeth break through. Babies can't bite while suckling. If your baby nips you when he has finished a feed, discourage future incidents by saying “no” and taking away the breast.
  • If bottle feeding, if the pain seems to be causing feeding problems, sometimes a different-shaped nipple or use of a cup may reduce discomfort and improve feeding.
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