Most babies will get their first tooth at 6 months of age and have a complete set of 20 “baby” (deciduous) teeth by age 2 1/2.

During this time, it’s common for babies’ gums to become tender around the new teeth. Swelling may occur, which can be painful. Babies are also exposed to a wide variety of new illnesses during this time. They’re armed with fewer maternal antibodies, which can add to the general discomfort they are experiencing. This can make it a difficult time for babies as well as for the adults that care for them.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, massage is a safe and effective treatment for mild teething discomfort.

Essential oils are also widely used to ease the pain and distress that comes from teething, but there isn’t sufficient scientific evidence to show that they are effective in this way. Keep in mind that every baby will react differently.

Early teething

Teething can start as early as 4 to 7 months. Because young babies are sensitive, only two essential oils are recommended for topical use during this early stage: chamomile and lavender.

Always dilute essential oils in a base oil. Do not apply essential oils directly to the baby’s skin. Mix it with a base oil such as a vegetable carrier oil.

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Chamaemelum nobile)

Chamomile is the most commonly used essential oil for teething because of its sedative effects. Its nontoxic nature also makes it likely to be safe for babies of all ages.

To use, place one to two drops in a vaporizer filled with water. Alternatively, mix chamomile with a base oil at a combined dilution ratio of less than .5 percent essential oils to base oil, and massage the blend along the baby’s jawline.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Lavender is soothing and nontoxic, making it a favorite on teething babies who are less than 6 months of age. In addition to being a natural antiseptic, lavender is also naturally sedative and its calming effects can alleviate muscle pains.

To use, dilute lavender at a ratio of up to .5 percent and massage the blend along the baby’s jawline.

Babies over 6 months

As babies get older, more essential oils become available for use on the jawline as well as directly on the gums.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger oil can help to alleviate pain caused by arthritis, fatigue, and muscular aches. However, ginger can also cause irritation if not diluted properly.

To use, dilute ginger in a base oil at a maximum ratio of up to .25 percent, and massage the blend along the baby’s gums.

Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Marjoram can help to increase circulation and ease muscles and joint pain. In adults, marjoram is commonly used to alleviate pain from arthritis, muscular aches, and rheumatism.

To use, dilute marjoram in a base oil at a ratio of up to .5 percent and gently massage the blend along the baby’s jawline.

Babies over 2 years

Teething can continue to be painful until all 20 teeth have completely grown in.

Clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata)

Clove bud is a powerful analgesic and antiseptic. It’s commonly used in some dental preparations in adults, and can be effective at alleviating pain due to muscle tension.

Clove bud is favorable to clove leaf and clove stem because it’s the least toxic of the three, but it should still be used with caution. To use, dilute clove bud at a ratio of up to .25 percent, and massage the blend along the baby’s gums. Because of its potency, clove bud shouldn’t be used on babies under the age of 2, and it should never be ingested.

Because some essential oils shouldn’t be used alongside certain medications and medical conditions, always check with your doctor before applying therapeutic oils on your baby.

If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor before using any essential oils on yourself or your baby.

Suggested applications

There are three ways to integrate essential oils into teething remedies.

  1. The first and most common method is to apply pressure directly to a baby’s gums and massage the gum area.
  2. The second method is to perform a gentle massage along a baby’s jawline to soothe tired gums from the outside.
  3. The third method is to diffuse diluted essential oil throughout a room. While the vaporization of essential oils will not have analgesic effects, it can have more general calming effects.

Dilution recommendations

Essential oils should always be diluted before they are applied to the skin, and this is especially true for babies. Because these oils will be massaged onto more sensitive areas of a baby’s skin, like the jawline or gums, oils must be carefully diluted.

Some oils are more potent than others and should be diluted at a ratio of less than .25 percent of essential oil per carrier oil. Other oils can be diluted at a ratio of .5 percent of essential oil per carrier oil. It’s important not to exceed the recommended dilution ratio because improper dilution can result in a burn.

Before application, perform a patch test by applying a small amount of diluted essential oil to a baby’s leg or arm, and wait to see if there is a reaction. If there is no reaction, it’s likely safe to apply the oil blend more generally. Essential oils should never be ingested.