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Oral Health for Babies

Starting healthy oral care habits from day one will give your child the best chance for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Alongside regular brushing and a tooth friendly diet it is important to consider your choices around feeding and soothing your baby which are explained in the following sections.

  • 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 particular 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 with 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 parents find their small 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 as long term dummy use can impact on healthy development of teeth and the shape of the mouth.

    If your baby uses a dummy, ensure you;

    • Try to keep dummies only for sleep time
    • Never dip a dummy in anything sweet like honey or sugar- this will cause dental cavities
    • Keep dummies very clean and sterilise frequently. Use a fresh dummy at every feed time more often if the dummy is left uncovered or is dropped
    • Do not put a dummy in your own mouth to ‘clean it’ this will only cause the transfer of 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 to reduce the risk of crooked teeth and problems with language development

  • This often happens about the same time as the first teeth begin to show and this is a good time to establish a tooth friendly diet.

    • Give them fresh fruit and vegetable finger foods
    • Savoury snacks are a better choice - such as bread sticks, oatcakes, toast fingers and cheese
    • Never add sugar to weaning foods
    • Give any sweeter foods and drinks at mealtimes not as snacks in between
    • Be aware that pureed fruit can increase the risk of tooth decay, so offer this at a mealtime
    • Avoid giving your child fruit juices, cordials and squash - including those labelled 'no added sugar'
    • Don’t let them 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.
    • Give any sweeter foods and drinks at mealtimes not as snacks in between

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.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum. CLICK HERE

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