Baby’s first teeth

7 May 2020

Baby’s first teeth is a major milestone. While some babies (and parents) don’t even notice that anything is happening, others have a painful time.

Every child will experience teething differently. On average, a baby will start teething after five or six months. However, some may start much earlier – there are rare cases where babies have been born with teeth that have already cut through, while others may only start teething after their first birthday.

Whether your little one starts teething earlier or later than average, neither is cause for you to worry. But it does help to know the signs of teething so that you know how to help your little one, especially if they are experiencing any of the more painful symptoms.


Common signs of teething

  • Drooling excessively
  • Swollen and tender gums
  • Putting hands or fists into their mouth
  • Red cheeks or ears
  • Irritable and generally unsettled
  • Refusing food due to pain and discomfort
  • Restless sleeping


How can you help your little one?

If you notice any of the symptoms and suspect your little one of teething you can try the following: 


  • Give them a teething ring to chew on; some teething rings can be cooled in the fridge
  • If you don’t have a teething ring, you can let them chew on things like biltong, bread crusts or biscuits
  • Sucking is soothing so offer extra fluids
  • You can try massaging their gums with your clean finger. You can also dip your finger in cold water beforehand. This may help prevent them from biting while nursing


Cleaning teeth

It’s best to start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Use a baby toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles, and toothpaste that is low in fluoride – only a pea-sized amount is enough for their little mouth. Even if they only suck or chew on the toothbrush, this will still help them to get used to having a toothbrush in their mouth. Alternatively, you can use a soft, clean cloth and a very small smear of baby toothpaste until your little one is around 12-18 months. Encourage your child to spit out toothpaste after brushing or wiping, but not to rinse.

It’s important to remember not to assume that all symptoms are from teething. Other illnesses and infections causing symptoms like fever, coughing or diarrhoea are not associated with teething but could be occurring at the same time. So it is important to contact your doctor or midwife if any of these or other symptoms seem worrying. Always trust your parental instinct.