Teething and tooth care
When it comes to teething, all babies are different. But your baby will probably get their first tooth some time during their first year.
Keep reading to find out how to spot when your baby is teething and what order your baby’s teeth are likely to appear in.
When do babies start teething?
Some babies are born with their first teeth. Others start teething before they are 4 months old, and some after 12 months. But most babies start teething at around 6 months.
Baby teeth sometimes emerge with no pain or discomfort at all. At other times, you may notice that:
- Your baby’s gum is sore and red where the tooth is coming through
- One cheek is flushed
- Your baby is dribbling more than usual
- They are gnawing and chewing on things a lot
- They are more fretful than usual
Read NHS UK’s tips on how to help your teething baby.
You know your baby best. If they have any symptoms that are causing you concern, then seek medical advice. You can call NHS 111 or contact your GP.
Read more about spotting the signs of serious illness.
Here’s a rough guide to how babies’ teeth usually emerge:
- Bottom incisors (bottom front teeth) – these are usually the first to come through, usually at around 5 to 7 months
- Top incisors (top front teeth) – these tend to come through at about 6 to 8 months
- Top lateral incisors (either side of the top front teeth) – these come through at around 9 to 11 months
- Bottom lateral incisors (either side of the bottom front teeth) – these come through at around 10 to 12 months
- First molars (back teeth) – these come through at around 12 to 16 months
- Canines (towards the back of the mouth) – these come through at around 16 to 20 months
- Second molars – these come through at around 20 to 30 months
Most children will have all of their milk teeth by the time they are two and a half years old.
There are a few easy things you can do to help protect your child’s teeth and gums and reduce the risk of tooth decay.
Reduce the amount of sugar in your child’s food and drink. Every time we have something sugary, the bacteria in the dental plaque in the mouth will produce acid that will attack the teeth. The more often we have sugary foods and drinks, the more ‘acid attacks’ we will have and this causes teeth to decay.
As soon as you see that first little tooth appear, brush twice a day:
- Use a fluoride toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm fluoride (you can find this on the side of the tube)
- If your child is under 3 years, just use a smear of toothpaste, but if they are 3-6 years use a pea sized amount of toothpaste
- Brush their teeth or supervise them brushing their own until they are at least 7 years old to make sure that they’re doing it well
- All the surfaces need to be cleaned, making sure that the gum line is cleaned as this is where a lot of the plaque forms
- Choose a toothbrush with a small head and medium texture bristles
- Brush for at least 2 minutes
- When you’ve finished brushing, encourage them to spit out the toothpaste, but don’t rinse with water, as this will rinse away the fluoride
- Always brush your child’s teeth at bedtime as this will protect their teeth while they’re sleeping
Start taking your little one to the dentist as early as possible! Take them along with you for your check-ups to get them used to the experience and environment so that it’s familiar to them. Once their first tooth has appeared, take them to see the dentist and then take them every 6 months. When your child is 3, you can ask your dentist about a fluoride varnish, which is a coating that can be applied to protect their teeth. Remember, dental treatment is free for children (and mothers from the start of pregnancy until your child is one year old).
Spotting your child’s first tooth is such an exciting milestone. It can happen at any time in their first year, but they often start to come through when they’re around 6 months old.
From the moment you spot a tooth, it’s important that you start looking after them. Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.
Don't worry if you don't manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to brushing their teeth as part of their daily routine. You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.
For further information about how to look after your baby’s teeth, visit the NHS website.
If you are not already registered with a dentist, you can find an NHS dentist near you and find out about their policy relating to COVID-19 as well, as things are likely to be a bit different in their service right now.
Quite simply, too much sugar is the main culprit of tooth decay. Some foods naturally have a high amount of sugar in them. The sugars that are in unsweetened fruit juices, honey and syrups and the sugars that are added to food and drinks are sometimes called ‘free sugars’. Children aged 4-6 should not have more than 19g per day.
- Don’t give your child drinks sweetened with sugar such as squash, fizzy drinks and juice drinks
- Limit unsweetened fruit juice or smoothies to only one glass (150mls) a day as even unsweetened fruit juice/smoothies are sugary
- Always serve sweet drinks and any sweet foods, such as dried fruit, with a meal as this can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay
- Avoid adding sugar or honey to any drinks or food
- If your child is unwell and needs medicine, you can ask to have this sugar free
- Never give sugary drinks or food just before bedtime
- Sugar is also hidden in lots of shop-bought foods, including savoury foods, to make them taste nicer. Check food labels as items such as pasta sauces, ready meals and ketchup can have a lot of sugar and salt added to them
- Regardless of whether sugar is brown, white, unrefined or in the form of honey, sugar is sugar and no one type is ‘healthy’
Find out more
Visit Change4Life to see what healthy foods you could swap sugary foods for.
Download the ‘Change4Life Food Scanner’ app and find out how much sugar shop-bought foods contain. You'll find it at the bottom of the Change4Life Food Facts webpage.