Health & daily care

Your baby will start getting their first teeth (teething) at around 6 months. Some babies may start earlier and some as late as when they turn 1. Teething occurs when the teeth growing in the jaw begin to come through the gums. The bottom front teeth usually come first, but some babies have the top teeth first. By 2½ years, most children have 20 teeth. If no teeth have appeared when your baby is 18 months old, talk to your family dentist.

Your baby’s teething

Some babies’ teeth pop through without any problems, while other babies find teething painful and upsetting. Your teething baby may:

  • have sore gums

  • dribble more

  • get a dribble rash on their face or chin

  • change their feeding patterns and their poos may change (not as watery as diarrhoea)

  • get a nappy rash if their poos and urine change

Teething doesn’t make babies sick, and diarrhoea is a sign of illness rather than teething. If you’re worried about your baby, talk with your Plunket nurse.

Helping your teething baby

If your baby is struggling with teething, they’ll probably appreciate something cool and hard to gnaw on. Watch out for your fingers! To help your baby cope with teething, try:

  • a teething ring to chew on, especially one you can cool in the fridge

  • a teething gel from the chemist (follow the instructions carefully on how to use it).

  • cold things to suck that are clean and firm (try chilled fruit wrapped in a muslin cloth so they do not chew bits off and choke on them).

Biting during breastfeeding

Biting during breastfeeding can be very painful, but you can teach your baby not to bite, and you can learn how to breastfeed safely if your baby is a chomper. The actions of feeding from the breast and biting are very different. Some babies will bite at the breast when they’ve finished feeding.

If your baby tends to bite while breastfeeding, try taking them gently off the breast when they start to bite, have a short break, then try again. Doing this every time will teach them that breastfeeding is stopped if they bite.

Looking after your baby’s teeth

Babies’ teeth become stronger if you clean them with full strength fluoride toothpaste from when they first appear.

Clean your baby’s teeth with a small, soft toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste.

As your baby grows, their first teeth will help them to eat and speak well. Healthy first teeth usually mean healthier adult teeth too, so it’s really important that you look after those first little teeth.

Read more about caring for your child’s first teeth, as well as dental decay and fluoride.


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