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D E P A R T M E N T
Caring for babies’ teeth
Looking after children’s first teeth is important for their health and for strong,
healthy second teeth.
Why are healthy first teeth so important?
• Babies with healthy teeth can eat foods with the nutrients they need to be
healthy. Decayed teeth are painful and make it difficult to eat harder foods like
fruit and vegetables which babies need for good health. The child may stop
eating, or stay on soft foods for too long.
• Baby teeth help in the development of a child’s speech
• They keep a space ready for when adult teeth are ready to come through. If
baby teeth are removed due to tooth decay, the remaining teeth may move and
take up space where the adult teeth are meant to come through. This can lead
to teeth ‘overcrowding’ and the need for expensive treatment later.
When will a baby get its first teeth?
Teeth usually start appearing between three and 15 months of age. By the time
children are two and half years old they should have all 20 of their baby teeth.
What’s the best way to clean baby teeth?
At first, it’s best to wipe the surfaces of the teeth with a clean face washer every
day. You don’t need toothpaste. After a year, use a soft baby brush (no tooth-
paste) to clean twice daily, if possible. If you can only clean teeth once a day,
make sure it’s before the baby goes to sleep at night. When the child is old enough
to spit out (about two years old), you can use a little low fluoride toothpaste. Use
just a smear of toothpaste for babies to begin with, gradually increasing the
amount to about the size of a pea when the child is about six years old. Ask your
chemist for a low fluoride toothpaste, or look for toothpaste with the words low
fluoride on the pack.
How else can parents avoid decay in their babies’ teeth?
• Avoid ‘comfort’ bottles, especially at night. The biggest cause of decay in chil-
dren’s teeth is putting them to bed with a bottle of juice or other sweet drink, or
even milk. When children’s teeth are ba