Those pearly whites will start pushing through your baby's gums when they are about four to 12 months old. The full set of baby teeth should come in by the time your toddler is two-and-a-half years old.

Your baby may be teething if they:

  • start to drool a lot
  • become fussier than normal
  • have trouble sleeping
  • have red swollen gums
  • try to rub the gums
  • have a desire to chew (usually on their fingers)
  • have a slight fever (100.5 F or less)

How you can help your teething baby

  • Give your baby hard plastic teething rings to chew on. You may put them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. The cold will soothe the swollen, red gums. Never give your baby small items (such as raw carrots) to chew on. They are a choking hazard.
  • Massage your baby's gums. Wash your hands well and run your index finger across your baby's swollen gums for two minutes at a time. Stop if your baby doesn't like this.
  • If your baby is eating solid foods, stay away from salty or acidic foods (like oranges). They can irritate your baby's gums.

Occasionally, give your baby pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Carefully follow the package instructions. You don't need to buy teething gels.

Do not give your baby aspirin. This can cause a serious condition called Reye's syndrome. It can lead to coma or death.

Don't give ibuprofen (such as Advil® or Motrin®) to a child younger than six months old.

When to start 'brushing' your baby's teeth

When those first teeth come in, use a wet washcloth around your finger — or a soft toothbrush — to clean and massage your baby's gums. This will introduce your child to the idea of brushing teeth. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician about whether to use toothpaste with fluoride.

When to start taking your baby to the dentist

Make regular dental appointments for cleanings and checkups starting at age 3 years or earlier if there are questions or concerns. Your child may need fluoride supplements if you have well water. Visiting the dentist twice a year will prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Your baby's first few trips to the dentist should be fun and enjoyable. When your baby becomes a toddler, your dentist can show them how to brush and floss. Fluoride treatments will also help prevent tooth decay.

Do not let your toddler lie down or go to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. The pooling milk or juice can cause choking, ear infections or tooth decay.

Taking your toddler to the dentist before a problem arises will help make future trips comfortable and not scary.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022