Dental Hygiene: How to Care for Your Baby’s Teeth

Healthy teeth are important to your baby’s overall health. They help your baby eat and form sounds and words. They also affect the way your baby’s jaw grows. Good oral care helps set good dental habits as your baby grows. Poor oral care can lead to infection, disease, or other teeth problems.

Path to improved well being

In general, baby teeth start to appear between 4 and 7 months old. But each baby is different. The first teeth to come in are usually the 2 bottom front teeth.

The process of your baby getting teeth is called teething. When your baby starts teething, you may notice that they drool more or want to chew on things. For some babies, teething may be painless. For others, their gums may be sore. They may be fussy. Other symptoms of teething are loss of appetite and trouble sleeping.

These tips can help relieve your baby’s discomfort.

  • Give your baby a cold teething ring or a cold washcloth to chew or suck on.
  • Rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger.
  • Ask your doctor if your baby can have infant acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol). Do not give your baby aspirin. Aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome, a serious illness that can lead to death in children under 18 years old.
  • Ask your doctor before using teething gels or tablets.

Teething does not have to interfere with breastfeeding. You can continue to breastfeed your baby as usual once they start teething.

Clean your baby’s teeth and gums with a wet washcloth or gauze. Do this at least once a day or after feedings. Once your baby starts to get teeth, clean their teeth and mouth at least twice a day. When your child is 1 to 2 years old, switch to a soft baby toothbrush with water. Add a small dab of toothpaste that does not have fluoride in it. This type of toothpaste is safe for your baby to swallow. Brush your baby’s teeth at least twice a day. You also should start using floss in between your baby’s teeth

Things to consider

  • Always hold your baby when you give them a bottle. Do not leave a bottle in the crib. Do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. The milk can collect in your baby’s mouth and cause tooth decay.
  • Do not give your baby a sippy cup of juice or milk in the crib. Your baby can start using a sippy cup when they are about 6 months old. Stop giving your baby a bottle when they are 1 year old. Do not let your baby walk around with a sippy cup unless it has only water in it.
  • Once your child is 1 year old, give them water or plain milk between meals instead of other drinks. Only give them juice or flavored milk with meals. Juice and flavored milk have a lot of sugar in them.
  • You can give your baby a pacifier, but only when needed. Try to stop using a pacifier around age 2. The same age applies for babies who suck their thumbs. Prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb sucking can cause problems with teeth alignment. Talk to your doctor about which type of pacifier you should use. Always use a clean pacifier. Do not dip it in honey or another substance that has sugar.

When to see a doctor

Your baby should see a dentist for the first time around their first birthday. This is important if they are at high risk for cavities or other teeth problems. You can choose a dentist that specializes with kids.

Teething should not cause a fever. Call your doctor if your baby has a fever.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What are other ways to sooth my baby during teething?
  • How do I know if my baby is at risk for cavities or other teeth problems?
  • When can I start using toothpaste with fluoride?
  • How can I stop my baby from sucking its thumb or wanting a pacifier?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Children’s Oral Health

National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus: Child Dental Health

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