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Baby Teeth

First teeth usually appear at around six months of age, but this will vary from child to child. By around the age of three children will have all 20 of their baby teeth. When they reach five or six years old, these teeth will begin to fall out and are replaced by 32 adult teeth.

Caring for teeth, until children are able to take care of them for themselves is an important responsibility of parents and carers. As well as regular brushing and a tooth friendly diet, it is important to think about choices around feeding and soothing your baby.

Remember this is a guide - babies' teeth may erupt at slightly different times.

  • Use a small round headed toothbrush and smear of toothpaste. *Click Here* to find out more.

    Brush at least twice a day. Just before bed and another time that fits in with your routine.

    • Start by sitting baby on your knee, with their head resting against your chest.
    • Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all surfaces including gums. Start slowly and gradually build up the time. 
    • You could use a piece of clean gauze or muslin cloth wrapped around your finger to clean those very first teeth.
    • There is no need to rinse with water as this will wash away the flouride.
    • Not all children like having their teeth brushed. You could sit in front of a mirror so you can both see what is happening or sing songs. 
  • Although we eventually develop adult teeth, baby teeth are very important as they;

    • Allow babies and children to chew and to smile.
    • Support the development of muscles for clear speech.
    • Hold the space ready for the adult teeth to grow in to. This makes it less likely that teeth will grow crooked or be overcrowded.

    There is a high risk of tooth decay if baby teeth are not cared for which can cause painful toothache and possible infections for your child. In some cases children will have to go into hospital to have rotten teeth removed.

    • Brush teeth twice a day using flouride toothpaste containing no less that 1000ppm flouride. 
    • Visit a dentist twice a year so that any problems are spotted early.
    • Think carefully about what families eat and drink.

  • Breastfeeding for the first year of life has been shown to decrease the risk of tooth decay. Breastfeeding has a positive effect on the development of the jaw and the gums. Breastfed children are less likely to have crooked teeth when they are older.


  • If you are bottle feeding your baby you need to take care as there is an increased risk of decay to the front teeth. This is because drinking from a bottle allows the sugars, natural or otherwise, to pool around the teeth.

    To reduce the risk of tooth decay;

    • Wipe your baby’s gums after feeds. You can use a piece of clean gauze dipped in cooled boiled water.
    • Clean the teeth twice daily using a smear of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice.
    • Do not let your baby fall asleep whilst feeding or leave a bottle for them in the cot. Allow time to clean teeth and gums before bed.
    • Try offering water in the night to an older baby.
    • Never give sugary drinks by bottle including cold and hot drinks like tea, hot chocolate, fizzy drinks or squash. Even those labelled 'no added sugar'.
    • Get your child used to drinking from an open cup from about six months of age.
    • Provide all of your baby’s drinks in an open top or valve free cup by one year of age.
    • Take your child to the dentist by one year of age and visit as often as the dentist recommends.

    Milk is a tooth friendly drink during the day, water is tooth friendly at any time.

  • Some babies get a lot of comfort from sucking on a dummy. It is advised that babies only use a dummy until they are one year old. Using a dummy for longer than this can impact on healthy development of teeth and the shape of the mouth.

    If your baby uses a dummy;

    • Try to keep dummies for sleep time.
    • Don't dip it in anything sweet like honey or sugar. This will cause dental cavities.
    • Keep dummies clean and sterilised.
    • Don't put a dummy in your own mouth to ‘clean it’. This will move the bad bacteria in your mouth to the baby’s mouth.
    • Try to wean your baby off their dummy between 6-12 months of age. This can reduce the risk of crooked teeth and problems with language development.

  • Weaning at 6 months is usually the same time as first teeth begin to show. This is a good time to think about a tooth friendly diet.

    • Give fresh fruit and vegetable finger foods.
    • Savoury snacks are a better choice. This includes bread sticks, oatcakes, toast fingers or cheese.
    • Never add sugar to weaning foods.
    • Give any sweeter foods and drinks at mealtimes not as snacks.
    • Be aware that pureed fruit can increase the risk of tooth decay, so offer this at mealtimes.
    • Avoid giving your child fruit juices, cordials and squash, including those labelled 'no added sugar'.
    • Don’t let babies sleep with a bottle or sippy cup. 
    • Switch to an open top cup or a non-valve beaker from six months rather than a bottle.
    • Choose sugar-free medicines where possible.

    *Click Here* for more information. 

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

*Click Here* to speak to other Norfolk parents and carers on our online community forum. 


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