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
- 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.
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.
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
Teething does not cause a fever, runny nose, or diarrhea. See a doctor if your child develops any of these symptoms.
Baby teeth are important because they:
Keep your child’s baby teeth healthy by:
- 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.
- 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 children from birth to 71 months of age.
Early childhood tooth decay can be caused by:
- Too much sugar in your baby’s diet.
- Feeding your baby without cleaning the mouth.
- Not cleaning your baby’s teeth properly.
- Putting your baby to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup.
- Dipping your baby’s pacifier in honey or anything sweet.
- Allowing your toddler or preschooler to continuously snack throughout the day.
Did You Know?
- By 12 months, children should be drinking from a cup without a lid.
- 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:
- During breastfeeding when baby stops sucking or falls asleep, remove your breast from your baby’s mouth.
- Not putting your baby to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. If your child must have a sippy cup fill it with water only (no other liquids such as juice, milk or pop).
- 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 toddler or preschooler scheduled healthy foods and snacks. Provide only water between meals.
- 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). A baby’s first visit to the dentist should be by one year of age.
Did You Know?
Any liquid (other than water) can pool around the teeth and cause tooth decay while your child sleeps.
It is not safe to put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup.
Try these tips instead when putting your child to bed:
- Read a story
- Sing a lullaby
It is important to have a bedtime routine
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 Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) 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.