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Caring for Your Child’s Teeth

Babies and Toddlers

*This webpage is for information purposes only. It is NOT a substitute for professional dental advice.*

Baby Mouth Care

Fast Facts
  • Oral care should start right after birth.
  • Wipe baby’s gums and teeth after every feeding.
  • Start early so baby gets used to having his mouth cleaned.
  • Early childhood tooth decay is tooth decay that affects children aged 0-3.
  • Left untreated, early childhood tooth decay can lead to poor eating and speech problems. 


For newborns (before teeth) and toddlers (first teeth)

Don’t wait for your baby’s first tooth to appear to start caring for his oral health.

Start cleaning your baby’s mouth and gums right after he’s born. Good oral health habits start early.  Wipe your baby’s gums and tongue after every feeding with a clean washcloth moistened with water. Starting early helps your baby get used to having his mouth cleaned from an early age. Wiping the mouth keeps the mouth clean.

Did You Know?

Babies aren’t born with the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Instead, the bacteria are passed from mother to child. (For example, “cleaning” your baby’s pacifier by putting it in your mouth could spread harmful germs to your baby.) 

Remember: tooth decay is an infectious disease.
Your dental health affects the health of your baby.

Baby’s first tooth

Each child is different and teeth will come in at different ages and stages. Most babies get their first teeth between 6 months and 1 year of age. Take a look at the Primary Teeth chart to see when teeth usually appear.

Baby’s first tooth

Most of your child’s 20 baby teeth (also known as “primary” teeth) will appear by age 2 or 3.

As soon as the first tooth appears (usually between 6 months and 1 year) you can start using a small toothbrush.

You can prevent early childhood tooth decay by keeping your baby’s first teeth clean and healthy.

Teething

What is teething?

Teething is when your child’s teeth push through the gums. Teething is also known as “tooth eruption.”

Signs of teething

Your baby or toddler may be teething if he:

  • Is irritable
  • Is cranky
  • Has bumps on his gums
  • Seems to be in pain
  • Keeps wanting to bite things
  • Drools

Teething does not cause a fever, runny nose, or diarrhea. See a doctor if your child develops any of these symptoms.

When Baby Teeth Appear

See when each baby (primary) tooth appears.

Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are important because they:

  • Help your child chew food.
  • Help your child learn to speak properly.
  • Keep the space for adult teeth.
  • Help keep your child healthy by letting her eat the foods
    she needs to grow and develop.
  • Give your child a healthy smile.
Keep your child’s baby teeth healthy by:
  • Brushing and flossing her teeth.
  • Taking her to the dentist regularly.
  • Providing healthy meals and snacks.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Early childhood tooth decay is a rapid form of tooth decay that usually affects the upper front teeth of children aged 0-3.

Healthy Teeth Early Stage
Intermediate Stage Late Stage

Causes

Early childhood tooth decay can be caused by:

  • Too much sugar in your baby’s diet.
  • Feeding your baby too long and too often.
  • Not cleaning your baby’s teeth properly.
  • Putting your baby to sleep with a bottle filled with anything
    but water (such as milk, juice or pop).
  • Dipping your baby’s pacifier in honey or anything sweet.
Did You Know?
  • Allowing your child to sip continuously from a bottle or sippy cup all day long could cause cavities.
  • Adding sugar — or anything sweet — to milk may lead to tooth decay.

Preventing early childhood tooth decay

You can prevent early childhood tooth decay by:

  • Removing your breast from your baby's mouth when she stops sucking or falls asleep.
  • Giving your baby only water if she takes a bottle to bed.
  • Cleaning your baby's mouth and teeth with a clean washcloth or small toothbrush moistened with water after every feeding.

  • Lifting your child's lip monthly to check for white chalky or dark brown spots on the teeth, which can be signs of early childhood tooth decay.

  • Giving your child healthy foods and snacks.
  • Following Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide by including
    foods from all of the four food groups: Vegetables & Fruit,
    Grain Products, Milk & Alternatives and Meat & Alternatives.
  • Taking your child for regular dental check-ups (at least once a year).
Did You Know?

Milk can pool around the teeth and cause tooth decay while your child sleeps.
Do not put your child to bed with a bottle. If your child must have a bottle, fill it with water only.

Treatment

Take your child to the dentist if you think he has tooth decay.

If you don’t have dental insurance and you can’t afford dental treatment for your child, the Ontario Government might cover the cost.

Contact Peel Public Health at 905-799-7700 to see if your child qualifies for the Children in Need of Treatment (CINOT) program.

When baby teeth fall out

While children develop at their own pace, watch for your child’s baby teeth to start loosening and falling out between 6 and 12 years of age. Your child’s adult teeth may erupt at the same time. This is normal, so don’t worry. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns.

While it’s okay for your child to wiggle a loose tooth, she shouldn’t force or pull the tooth out. Pulling a tooth out before it is ready to fall out can cause pain and bleeding, and may interfere with the natural order of tooth eruption.

When baby teeth fall out

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Revised: December 16, 2013

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