Teeth & Teething

Teeth & Teething

Many babies' teeth come through without any problems, but for some the gums swell and become sore as teeth break through.

Your child: Healthy teeth

Watch to find out why your child's first teeth are important and how to care for them. Debbie, a dental therapist, talks to Renee and Dez about caring for their son's teeth, including brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and eating healthy food. Watch as Renee brushes Aidan's teeth. Transcript available at the Ministry of Health website.

Ministry of Health video.


Baby teeth

The lower (bottom) front teeth usually come through the gum first. These are followed by the upper (top) front teeth. The picture below shows when each tooth usually appears.


The bottom front teeth come through at 6–10 months, and the top front teeth at 8–12 months. Then, the top teeth on either side at 9–13 months, and the bottom teeth on either side at 10–16 months. The first top molar teeth come in at 13–19 months. The first bottom molars come in at 14–18 months. Then the top canines at 16–22 months and the bottom canines at 17–23 months. The last bottom molars come through at 23–31 months, and the last top molars at 25–33 months.

Many babies' teeth come through without any problems, but for some the gums swell and become sore as teeth break through. Your teething baby may cry, have a slight fever, have red cheeks, drool, not eat or sleep well and want to bite something hard.

If your baby is upset, gently rub their gums with a clean finger or the back of a cold spoon. You can also wrap ice cubes in a wash cloth and place the cloth on your baby's cheek. Give your baby something to chew on, such as a clean teething ring. You can also buy teething gels from your chemist.

If your baby has a lot of pain, bleeding or pus in their gums or swelling in the mouth or face, get help from a doctor or nurse or call Healthline (0800 611 116).

Teething doesn't make babies sick. If your baby is unwell, check with your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse or your doctor. Ring Healthline (0800 611 116) if you can't get to a doctor easily.

Caring for your baby's teeth

These first teeth will help your baby to eat and speak well. Healthy baby teeth usually mean healthy adult teeth too, so it’s important that you look after your baby’s first teeth.

Brush teeth twice a day

As soon as your baby's teeth start to show, start brushing. Use a small, soft brush and a smear of regular-strength fluoride toothpaste twice a day. One brushing should be at night before your baby goes to bed. 

Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride makes teeth stronger and reduces tooth decay (holes). Use a 1000 parts per million (ppm) regular-strength fluoride toothpaste for your baby's teeth.

Enrol with the Community Oral Health Service

Enrol your baby with the Community Oral Health Service if they haven't called you – phone 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583). The service is free.

Lift the lip every month

Gently lift your child's top lip once a month to check inside their mouth. It's a quick and easy way to see if tooth decay (holes) is present.

You can read about tooth decay and what to look for on the Plunket website.

Drink from a cup

Around 6 months is a good time to prepare your baby for drinking from a cup. Start with water in a sipper cup and you will find it much easier to wean from the breast or bottle later.

Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle. Going to sleep with a bottle of milk, a warm chocolate drink or juice will start to cause tooth decay. If they want to suck on something to settle themselves, it's better to use a pacifier/dummy.


This page last reviewed 24 September 2018.

Call Healthline on 0800 611 116 any time of the day or night for free health advice when you need it