ease the pain of teething

Top tips to help ease the pain of teething

For some babies, teething can be a long and painful process – it’s important to help ease their discomfort with lots of soothing and plenty of cuddles. We’ve compiled a list of top tips to help ease the pain of teething

Teething is a big milestone for your baby and is a normal part of development. The milk teeth actually begin to develop when the baby is growing in the womb, but the teeth only start to grow out through the gums when the baby is six to nine months old (although it can be before or after these ages).

When the teeth grow, special chemicals are released by the body, which causes part of the gums to separate and so allows the teeth to grow through. The teeth grow throughout the gums with front teeth coming through first, followed by the top middle teeth. Other teeth follow over the following months. A child is usually aged around two and half or three when they have their full set of first teeth.

Some babies become distressed with the pain of swollen and tender gums, while others seem to have no uncomfortable symptoms at all.

Symptoms of teething

For most babies, the signs of teething include:

  • Dribbling
  • Coughing
  • Cold-like symptoms
  • Low-grade fever
  • Not sleeping well
  • Chin rash
  • Cheek rubbing and ear pulling
  • Gnawing
  • Diarrhoea

How to ease the pain of teething

Teething is almost certainly uncomfortable for infants. The good news is that teething is a temporary phase in their development and there are a whole host of ways that you can provide comfort and relief for teething troubles.

ease the pain of teething

1. Cold facecloth

Rinse a clean facecloth in cool water and place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The very cold, and slightly crunchy texture of the facecloth provides relief – and some distraction – for little teethers. Make sure to wash it after use. Facecloths provide a safe alternative to rubber and plastic teething rings, which can carry a risk of breaking and releasing the liquid inside.

2. Clean fingers

Biting down on the clean fingers of mum or dad can provide enough pressure to swollen gums to bring some relief to teething babies.

3. Teething gels

Over-the-counter teething gels offer some relief for irritated gums for babies over two months. With active ingredients that numb the area where the gel is applied, teething gels can be an effective solution for very upset teething babies.

4. Chilled foods

Tender, puffy gums get a lot of relief from cold items during teething – so offering chilled foods during this time can bring a lot of comfort. If your baby isn’t old enough to be eating frozen homemade fruit ice blocks, try allowing your baby to enjoy the flavour and coolness of fresh fruit while avoiding any potential choking risks.

5. Massage sore gums

By rubbing your baby’s swollen gums with a clean finger or the back of a cold spoon, you will apply enough pressure to the sore gums to numb the pain temporarily.

6. Clean with gauze

Teething gums can be very tender gums and attempting to clean your baby’s teeth when there are new teeth erupting in his mouth can make him very distressed. Instead of using a toothbrush which may prod into painful spots, try wiping the teeth with a piece of soft gauze instead. That way, his teeth can stay white – and you can avoid his tender gums.

ease the pain of teething

7. A soothing cuddle

The power of the cuddle cannot be underestimated when it comes to helping babies deal with aches and pains. Some hugs and kisses – along with some playing – may be all it takes to get your baby through the pain of teething.

8. Pain relief medication

If you feel that your baby’s teething pain is extreme, you may want to consider pain relief medication. Talk to your pharmacist before you go down this avenue because she may have some other suggestions you haven’t tried yet.

Dad’s tip

“There are a number of products designed for kids at teething age that can be refrigerated. The soft and cool rubber offers a nice, natural relief for babies’ gums.” – Joe Griffin

Dr Abigail Moore is a paediatric dentist who operates private practice limited to paediatric dentistry at the Burlington Dental Clinic and the Hermitage Medical Clinic. She also teaches clinical paediatric dentistry to undergraduate dental students.

When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

As soon as teeth come through, they should be kept clean as plaque will build up on them. Teeth should be cleaned twice a day – a great way to establish good habits early! Some parents wipe the teeth with a clean flannel or muslin. There are also special finger brushes, which are fun and easy to use, or a very soft baby toothbrush. Children often enjoy chewing the toothbrush as it can relieve those tender teething gums.

There is no need to use toothpaste before two years of age unless advised by your dentist, but a small smear just to get used to the taste of mint is fine. Once a child is two years old, a peasized amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste should be introduced twice daily, with no rinsing after brushing to allow the toothpaste to have maximum preventive effects.

Why are baby (primary) teeth so important and how long do they last?

By the age of three years children usually have 10 teeth on the top and 10 on the bottom. These teeth are important for chewing, facial development, adult tooth positioning, speech development and of course smiling. Children begin losing the front primary teeth at age six to seven years in a flurry of tooth fairy excitement! The back primary teeth (molars) are not lost until 10 -12 years old, meaning that we must keep these teeth clean and healthy until then.

If the primary teeth develop dental decay, children can suffer considerable pain and discomfort, so keeping the primary teeth healthy is essential. The back baby teeth also hold spaces for the adult teeth to erupt into. If the molars are lost prematurely, it may allow shifting of the neighbouring teeth into the gap and cause crowding. This crowding may make a child more likely to need orthodontic treatment.

More like this:

Look after your baby’s teeth
Easing teething
Is it an ear infection or teething?


Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.