Those pearly whites will start pushing through your baby's gums when she is 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 she:

  • starts to drool a lot
  • becomes fussier than normal
  • has trouble sleeping
  • has red swollen gums
  • tries to rub the gums
  • has a desire to chew (usually on her fingers)
  • has a slight fever (100.5 degrees Fahrenheit 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 her 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 her gums.
  • Occasionally, give your baby pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Carefully follow the package directions. 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.

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

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should start seeing the dentist between ages one to three years or sooner if there are questions or problems. 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 her 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 Department, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5 Years Old, fifth edition. To avoid awkward sentences, instead of referring to your child as "he/she" or "him/her," this guide will alternate between "he" or "she" and "him" or "her."
Reviewed By: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts, including the Pediatric Department of Allina Health Coon Rapids Clinic
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 01/01/2016

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