Caring for Your Baby's Teeth

by Roberta Duyff, MS RDN FAND American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, 4th ed. (New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012).

Caring for Your Baby's Teeth

Good dental care begins at birth – even before baby teeth appear! Healthy teeth let children chew food easier, learn to talk clearly, and smile with self-assurance.

Make cleaning your baby's teeth and gums part of the daily bathtub routine. Starting at birth, clean your baby's gums with a soft infant toothbrush and water, or use a clean, wet washcloth or gauze pad. Do this after every feeding. Skip toothpaste, which babies often swallow.

Schedule your baby's first visit to a pediatric dentist after the first tooth appears (at about six to 12 months).

Fluoride is a mineral that helps teeth develop and resist decay. In many places, fluoride is naturally present in local water supplies at various levels. If you live in an area that doesn't have fluoridated water, ask your baby's doctor if your baby or child needs a fluoride supplement. Unless your child's dentist advises otherwise, wait until after age two or three years to start with fluoridated toothpaste.

To avoid tooth decay, do not put your infant, toddler, or young child to bed with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk. The liquid that bathes the teeth and gums from sucking on the bottle stays on teeth and can cause tooth decay. That happens even if a baby's teeth haven't yet erupted through the gums. If your child won't nap or go to bed without a bottle, fill it with plain water instead.

Reviewed June 2013

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About the author:

Roberta L Duyff MS RDN FAND

Roberta Duyff, MS RDN FAND

Author of "Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, Fourth Edition" and "365 Days of Healthy Eating from the American Dietetic Association" (both published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New Jersey).




  • Cook healthy

    Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of all meals. Even a snack can be healthy.

  • Eat right

    Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day's experiences with one another.

  • Shop smart

    To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.

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