Your baby's first tooth and those adorable toothy grins are milestones you'll look for and treasure. If you're wondering when they will appear, it's good to know that the timing of teething varies widely from baby to baby. Read on to discover when your baby may start teething, the signs and symptoms of teething, how long teething typically lasts, and much more.

When Does Teething Start?

Teething often starts when babies are between 6 and 12 months old, though in some cases those first teeth may appear earlier or even a little later. In some very rare cases newborns may be born with a tooth already erupted, or have a tooth come through in the first few weeks.

Look out for signs of teething, such as tender gums, drooling, or gnawing on a fist or finger, which may indicate that you’ll soon be seeing a tooth emerge.

What if Teething Starts Later Than You Expect?

It's helpful to remember that growing teeth is not a competitive sport, and that your baby's teeth will arrive when they are ready. So, don't be concerned if your friends' children get teeth before your baby does. The age range can be quite broad when it comes to teething. Though it's likely that teething may begin between 6 and 12 months, the first tooth may appear as early as 3 or 4 months or as late as 14 months. Some babies might even be slightly outside of this range on either side. Genetics may play a role in the timing. Of course, if you're concerned about your baby’s teeth (or lack thereof) or have any questions about dental care, speak to her healthcare provider or dentist.

Which Teeth Come in First?

Each baby is different, but typically your baby’s two bottom front teeth will come in first, followed by the two top front teeth. We cover when baby teeth typically come in in more detail in our teething timeline below.

How Long Does Teething Last?

The duration of the teething process can vary. At some point between your child's second and third birthdays, however, your little one will have a full set of 20 primary teeth. This means the total teething period lasts about two years. If your little one has teething discomfort, know that this will probably come and go. Teething symptoms are typically experienced in the days before a tooth erupts; then the soreness subsides until a new tooth starts to come in.

How Many Baby Teeth Will Appear in Total?

Your little one’s first set of teeth are known as primary or baby teeth. By the time she’s 2 and a half to 3 years old she will have a full set of 20 baby teeth.

When your child is around 6 or 7 years old, the baby teeth will start falling out to make way for her permanent teeth, sometimes called secondary teeth. It takes many years for all 32 secondary teeth to come in, so for a while there your child will have a mix of primary and secondary teeth.

In Summary
  • Your child’s first set of teeth are called baby teeth or primary teeth
  • There’s a wide range of normal for when teething will start
  • Teething often starts between 6 and 12 months
  • Teething usually lasts about two years in total
  • Your baby will likely have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time she’s between 2 and 3 years old
  • Baby teeth start to fall out when your child is about 6 or 7 years old. They are gradually replaced with adult teeth (secondary teeth)

Signs and Symptoms of Teething

Signs and Symptoms of Teething
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Sometimes a tooth may appear without any symptoms at all while in other cases symptoms of teething could start about three to four days before the tooth itself is visible.

As the baby teeth grow and break through the gums, teething symptoms can include:

  • Irritability. Your little one might seem a little fussier and may cry more than usual.

  • Disturbed sleep. Teething pain or discomfort may cause your baby to wake up during the night.

  • More drooling. It’s common for a teething baby to drool a lot when teething. Experts say the extra saliva can help soothe the tender gums.

  • Chewing on things. When your baby is teething, she may gnaw on toys, a teething ring, or even her own fingers to help relieve the pressure she feels on her gums. Chewing on something firm helps massage the gums and helps ease any discomfort as the tooth tries to erupt.

  • Sore, swollen gums. The spot where a tooth is coming through may be tender, red, and swollen.

  • Low-grade temperature. During teething, your little one’s temperature may be slightly elevated, but teething is unlikely to cause a fever higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit. If your baby seems very uncomfortable or has a temperature of at least 101 degrees (or at least 100.4 degrees for a baby under 3 months) , contact your little one’s healthcare provider, who can determine what's causing the fever.

In Summary

The signs and symptoms of teething can include:

  • Crankiness
  • Crying
  • Disrupted sleep
  • Drooling
  • Chewing on items or fingers
  • Sore, swollen, red gums.

Teething Timeline

When each tooth comes in and in what order varies from child to child, but here’s a general idea of the teething timeline:

Top Teeth

  • Central incisors (the front teeth): 8 to 12 months

  • Lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the front teeth): 9 to 13 months

  • Canines, or cuspids (the sharp, pointy teeth on either side of the lateral incisors): 16 to 22 months

  • First molars (the back teeth used to grind food): 13 to 19 months

  • Second molars (the back teeth that fill in the last gaps): 25 to 33 months

Bottom Teeth

  • Central incisors (the front teeth): 6 to 10 months

  • Lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the front teeth): 10 to 16 months

  • Canines, or cuspids (the sharp, pointy teeth on either side of the lateral incisors): 17 to 23 months

  • First molars (the back teeth used to grind food): 14 to 18 months

  • Second molars (the back teeth that fill in the last gaps): 23 to 31 months

Baby tooth eruption order

How to Soothe Your Teething Baby

Teething can be uncomfortable for some babies, and as there’s no magic technique that works for every child, you may have to experiment to find something that helps your little one feel better. Among the many ways to soothe your teething baby are these two quick ideas:

  • Give a teething ring. Chewing on one of these rings lets your teething baby massage her own gums. Some types can be cooled in the fridge to give extra relief, but don’t put a teething ring in the freezer—this can make it too hard and cold for your little one’s sensitive gums. To keep your little one safe, never tie a teething ring to a string that’s looped around your baby’s neck or clipped to her top.

  • Massage your baby’s gums. Using a clean finger, gently massage your baby’s sore gums.

How to Care for Your Baby’s New Teeth

It’s important to start caring for your baby’s teeth (or tooth) as soon as the first one pokes through. Those baby teeth have to last several years before they’re replaced with adult teeth, and establishing good dental hygiene habits early on will help set your little one up for healthy teeth and gums throughout her life. Taking steps to prevent cavities and tooth decay in the baby teeth is just as important as it is with adult teeth, because decay in these teeth can affect the permanent teeth that follow and cause other dental problems like pain and infections.

Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth

Regular brushing is an important part of dental care. The key thing at this stage is to gently clean baby teeth twice a day and to get your little one used to the brushing routine. Here are some guidelines for brushing your baby’s teeth, as well as some tips on teaching your older child how to get the job done, with your help:

  • Brush at least twice a day, always brushing after your child has had anything sugary as well as after the last meal or drink of the day

  • Put a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for your baby’s age. Carefully brush each tooth, making sure to reach all the surfaces, including the sides and the inside surface. Once your child is about 2 years old you can start using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. You'll need to teach him how to rinse and spit, rather than swallowing the toothpaste.

  • The direction of the brush stroke doesn’t really matter. The key is to clean each tooth from all angles, making sure you reach the back teeth as well

  • For now you’ll need to brush your baby’s teeth. As he reaches the toddler and preschooler stage, help him begin brush his own teeth, under your close supervision. You'll need to lend a hand until he's 7 or 8 years old to ensure those teeth get a thorough clean. Here are some ideas for how to make brushing more fun for both of you.

Diet

Your little one’s diet is a big part of dental health. Avoid giving your child sugary drinks like fruit juice and sodas, or sticky sweet snacks like gum, toffee, and sticky caramel. Also, don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup of milk, formula, juice, or any other sweet drink, as this can cause the sugary liquid to pool in his mouth and lead to tooth decay.

For more on caring for your baby’s teeth, check out our article on dental care for children.

Dental Checkups

Getting professional care from a dentist is crucial for the healthy development of your child’s teeth, mouth, and gums. Usually, the first dentist visit should take place within about six months of the first tooth poking through or by the time your child is 12 months old, whichever comes first.

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, you can make an appointment at any time. Your baby’s healthcare provider will also check your baby’s teeth and gums at his regular well-child checkups.

In Summary

To care for your child’s baby teeth

  • Brush your baby’s teeth twice a day
  • Use a soft-bristled brush and a rice-size smear of fluoride toothpaste
  • Schedule the first dental checkup by the time your baby is 12 months old
  • Don’t let your baby fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup in his mouth
  • Avoid giving your baby sugary drinks or foods, but if you do brush his teeth afterwards.

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When to See Your Baby’s Healthcare Provider

If your little one is showing symptoms like fever, irritability, or diarrhea, or any other signs of childhood illness, and you’re not sure whether it’s related to teething or something else, it’s safest to call your healthcare provider so an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.

You should also contact your baby’s healthcare provider if you’re concerned about how much discomfort your baby is in as a result of teething. The provider may recommend some form of pain relief while also making sure that nothing else is wrong to cause the elevated levels of pain or discomfort. Do not use teething gels to numb the gums, as these are dangerous.

You'll also want to consult your baby’s healthcare provider or dentist if your baby has a tooth problem or injury, such as a broken or chipped tooth.

Interesting Facts About Baby Teeth

Want to know more about teething and those white-as-can-be baby teeth? Here are some fun facts about your little one’s teeth:

  • On average, about four teeth will poke through every six months during the teething process

  • Girls' teeth may erupt a little sooner than boys' teeth

  • The bottom teeth tend to erupt before the same type of tooth on the top

  • Teeth usually erupt in symmetrical pairs; in other words, one tooth on the right side of the jaw and the same type of tooth on the left side of the jaw will poke through at roughly the same time

  • Your child’s primary teeth are smaller and whiter than the permanent teeth that will replace them in a few years’ time

  • From around the age of 4, your child’s face and jaw will begin to grow and change shape, and this will create gaps in his smile as the baby teeth won’t catch up in size. This is completely normal—it’s the mouth’s way of making space for the bigger adult teeth that will follow.

  • Your baby’s secondary teeth will be coming in when he is about 7 or 8 years old. Because it will take a little while before your child has a full set of adult teeth, for several years your child will have a mix of baby and adult teeth.

  • Your baby has 20 primary teeth but will have many more secondary teeth. By the time your child is in his teens or early 20s, he'll have between 28 and 32 adult teeth.

FAQs at a Glance

  • Signs that your baby is teething can include:

    • Being cranky or crying a lot
    • Disrupted sleep
    • Drooling more than usual
    • Chewing or gnawing on an object
    • Tender, red gums where the tooth is coming through.
  • Here’s how to soothe your teething baby:

    • Give your baby a teething ring to chew on
    • If your little one’s already eating solids, give some crunchy or textured finger foods like a teething biscuit or give cold food like applesauce or yogurt
    • Massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger
    • Chill a clean cloth in the fridge and give it to your baby to chew on.
  • Most babies cut their first tooth sometime between 6 and 12 months old, but some do start teething earlier, so it may be possible that your baby is teething at 3 months old.

    Check for symptoms of teething like fussiness, excessive drooling, or sore, red gums. If you aren’t sure whether your baby is teething or not, ask your child’s healthcare provider for personalized advice.

  • The range is quite broad, but most babies start teething sometime between 6 and 12 months of age. It’s possible that your baby may start teething a little earlier or later than this range.

  • It may be possible to start teething at 8 weeks, but typically teething starts sometime between 6 and 12 months.

  • The gums may look red and swollen and may be tender to the touch. Eventually, you may also see a tooth poking through the gumline.

  • Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first one pokes through. Twice a day, use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a tiny smear of toothpaste to gently clean the entire surface of the tooth.

The Big Picture

Teething can sometimes be a challenging time for your baby and you. Try to keep in mind how important those teeth are, helping your child chew and bite into the nutritious foods that are fueling his growth and development.

If you’re still waiting for that first tooth, know that it will be here soon enough, and more will be on the way. Each new tooth that emerges will make that smile even more adorable than it was before. Take good care of your baby’s tiny teeth and before you know it the gaps in your little one’s smile will be filled in with some of the cutest, whitest teeth you’ve ever seen!

How we wrote this article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.