Teeth: The first year

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Key points to remember

  • at about 6 months of age, the first teeth begin to come through 
  • begin cleaning them either with a soft cloth or very soft toothbrush twice a day
  • use a smear of fluoride toothpaste to help keep the teeth hard 
  • avoid giving your baby a bottle or a sipper cup with juice, cordial, or other sweet drinks to carry around or to go to sleep with
  • ideally, all children should have their first dental visit by the time they are one year old

Teething

At about 6 months of age, the first teeth begin to erupt into the mouth. Babies can be uncomfortable during teething. Clean teething rings which have been cooled in the fridge can help. Ask your pharmacist about anaesthetic teething gels also. Remember, if a baby seems unwell for more than a day, it may not be due to teething problems, so do get medical advice.

How can I keep my baby’s teeth healthy?

As the first teeth erupt, it is important to think about keeping them healthy. So what can be done?

As soon as the teeth erupt, begin cleaning them either with a soft cloth or very soft toothbrush twice a day.

When you clean baby’s teeth, remember to lift the lip and make sure the teeth get cleaned right to the gums. Check for any marks or stains on the top front teeth. If you notice any changes, ask a school dental therapist or your family dentist to have a look.

Should I use fluoride toothpaste for my baby?

Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste to help keep the teeth hard. Choose a mild flavour. It is recommended that regular fluoride toothpaste be used to maximize the effect of fluoride.

I don’t live in a place with fluoride in the water. What should I do?

Ask the local school dental therapist or your dentist for advice. They will tell you which fluoride to use to give your baby’s teeth the best protection.

What causes decay?

When foods with sugars are eaten, bacteria in the mouth make acids that dissolve teeth to form holes. The main risk for tooth decay is frequent drinking and eating foods which contain sugars. Therefore avoid giving your baby a bottle or a sipper cup with juice, cordial, or other sweet drinks to carry around or to go to sleep with. If you have to use a bottle, just make sure it has only water in it.

What if I have decay – are my children at risk?

If you have decay, you should make sure you get your teeth fixed because decay is contagious (catching). You can pass on the decay bacteria to your baby. Remember not to share spoons and food with your baby to avoid passing on your bacteria. Your dentist can advise you other ways to decrease the risks for your baby.

When should I get my child’s teeth checked?

Ideally, all children should have their first dental visit by the time they are one year old. You can ask the local dental therapist or your family dentist. The therapist or dentist can check for any developing problems and can give you good advice about ways to keep the teeth healthy.

This page last reviewed 21 November 2013
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2014
Printed on 24 April 2014. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand