How to take care of your baby’s teeth

Mother wiping baby's gums with a wash cloth
The best way to make sure your baby has a healthy mouth – and body – is to practice good oral cleaning, eating and drinking habits at home. Here are a few tips for ensuring that your child has healthy teeth for a lifetime:

Start early!

  • Beginning at birth, wipe your child’s gums with a washcloth or piece of gauze after feeding.
  • As soon as you see the first tooth (usually around 6 months), start bushing your baby’s teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush and a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Place your baby’s head in your lap to make brushing easier.

Choose healthy food and drinks

  • If you give your baby a bottle at bedtime or naps, fill it with water. Juice, formula, milk and breast milk can cause decay if left in your baby’s mouth.
  • When your child is ready, provide healthy snacks such as cheese, fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid cavity-causing soda and candy and limit carbohydrate snacks such as crackers and pretzels.
  • Offer water instead of juice. Constantly sipping sweet drinks during the day or snacking on sticky foods can cause tooth decay.

My family can’t afford health insurance, but through Medicaid and the Access to Baby & Child Dentistry program, my son and daughter have been able to get their teeth taken care of… (The dentist has) helped them understand what happens if they don’t take care of their teeth. He’s also taught me a lot about how to help take care of their teeth at home.Judith Arias, Yakima County ABCD parent

Lift the lip and look

  • Every month, lift your baby’s lip and look for changes on his/her teeth. Tooth decay often starts on the front or back of the front teeth and along the gums.
  • If you notice white or brown spots on the teeth or anything unusual, contact your baby’s physician or dentist.

Check-ups

  • Have your baby’s mouth checked by a dentist or physician by age one, sooner if you notice a problem.
  • During the checkup your dentist or physician should look for signs of early tooth decay, talk about daily tooth care including brushing, and discuss your baby’s diet and eating habits.
  • Ask whether your child needs a fluoride varnish and fluoride drops or tablets (if your water does not contain fluoride).

Take care of your own oral health! If your mouth is healthy, your baby is more likely to have a healthy mouth too. Visit the KidsOralHealth.org for more tips.