Although it has been proposed by some that one of Teti’s wives, Iput I, was a daughter of Unas, his relationship with his predecessor is uncertain. Unas appears to have died without any male heir of his own, after which a brief period of political instability may have disrupted the country. Teti is believed to have ended this instability when he came to power, which is perhaps reflected in his Horus-name, “Horus, who appeases Tawi".
Manetho considered Teti as the founder of a new dynasty, a tradition which goes back at least as far as the composition of the Turin King-list, where Teti is listed as the first of a new group of kings.
The length of Teti's reign is somewhat problematic. In the Turin King-list only the number of months and days of his reign are preserved, with the number of years in a lacuna. The last year of Teti's reign that has been attested was the year after the 6th counting. If these counts occurred every 2 years, this would be year 11. Manetho, however, assigns him 30 years.
Teti’s internal policy appears to have been directed at re-stabilising the power of the central government, thus countering a move towards more power for the local administration started under the reign of Djedkare. Nevertheless, many high officials would be able to build tombs that could rival the kings’ in splendour. This is often seen as a sign that the wealth of the Egyptian nobility had increased, as well as their influence and prestige.
One of Teti’s daughters, Watet-khet-her, also named Sesheshet, may have been married to Mereruka, who held the office of vizier.
Teti issued a decree in favour of the temple of Abydos, making him the oldest known king to be associated with the cult of Hathor in Dendara. A lovely sistrum, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, inscribed with part of Teti’s royal titulary highlights the affinity of this king with Hathor, the goddess of love and music, symbolised by the sistrum.
According to Manetho, Teti was murdered by his body guards.
Following the tradition started by Unas, the rooms in Teti's relatively small pyramid at the North-East edge of the plateau of Saqqara have been inscribed with the Pyramid Texts. During the early Middle Kingdom and the 19th Dynasty, Teti's memory was especially honoured as "Teti, beloved of Ptah".