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Your Baby’s Mouth

Most of your child’s baby teeth come in during this time. The last baby teeth in the mouth are the second molars, which come in later (see tooth diagram). Timing of teething may be delayed up to six to nine months and is not unusual or cause for concern.

Remember to avoid using oral gels/teething products as they have been deemed unsafe for teething use in infants and children.

Grain of rice of toothpaste

Begin to brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they come in. Brush at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush. Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste and a gentle circular scrubbing motion. The amount of toothpaste you should use is about the size of a grain of rice (see picture). Set a good example for your child by taking care of your own teeth and gums. Taking care of your teeth and gums can help prevent passing germs that cause cavities to your child. You should take your child to the dentist for a first check-up by age one. If you cannot find a dentist that sees young children, ask your doctor for a referral. Watch Video

  1. Enamel Defect

    ENAMEL DEFECTS: Look closely at your child’s teeth on a regular basis. If you notice that the teeth are pitted or rough, or have yellow, brown, or white spots, you should contact your dentist. Your child may have enamel defects, and your dentist can work with you to treat if needed.
  2. Cavities

    CAVITIES: Your child’s baby teeth can develop cavities. Cavities will look like small brown spots on the teeth. Read the next section to learn how you can help prevent cavities in your child’s mouth. If your child does get cavities, it is important to have them checked. Your dentist can determine whether your child has cavities and how best to treat them. The dentist or your child’s doctor may apply a fluoride varnish to your baby’s teeth to help prevent cavities. It is important that you brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day. See Brushing Teeth Tab 2 in Your Baby’s Mouth section for more information.
  3. Reflux

    REFLUX: Most children have some reflux or “spitting up”. This can be normal and most children outgrow it. If your child continues to have reflux after the age of 12 to 18 months, talk with your doctor. Reflux can wear on the enamel (outer tooth layer) and affect the baby teeth. Too much cow’s milk may cause reflux. Your child should have no more than 16 ounces (2 cups) of cow’s milk per day.
  4. Funky Tounge

    ‘FUNKY’ TONGUE: Your child may develop irregular, smooth, whitish areas on the tongue that look like a map. The white areas often will look different from one day to another. This may be a condition known as ‘geographic tongue’. This is harmless and usually does not cause discomfort. Talk with your doctor or dentist if your baby seems to be experiencing discomfort.
  5. Fused teeth

    EXTRA TEETH/MISSING TEETH: Your child’s teeth form before he/she is born. During this time, a single tooth bud may partially divide (gemination). When this tooth comes in, it may look like two teeth. Or two teeth buds may unite (fusion) and look like one tooth. This may seem like a tooth is missing. Both conditions are harmless, and usually no treatment is needed. An x-ray usually is not indicated at this time.
  6. Bleeding Gums

    BLEEDING GUMS: You may notice blood on the toothbrush when you brush your child’s teeth. Bleeding can be a sign of ‘gingivitis’ caused by bacterial plaque on the teeth at the gum line. You should focus on brushing your child’s teeth along the gum line to remove the plaque. Bleeding should stop within 7 to 10 days. If the bleeding does not go away, you should take your child to a dentist or talk with your doctor to make sure there are no other problems causing the bleeding.

General Oral Health Information

To help prevent cavities, do not put your child to bed with a bottle. If you do put your child to bed with a bottle, use only water in the bottle. Offer only water if your child wakes up in the middle of the night. You should not give your child juice until after the first birthday unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Between ages 1-6 years, children should drink only 4-6 ounces (1/2 a cup or 1 juice box) of juice per day. Juice has a lot of sugar that can coat the teeth and cause cavities. If you dilute the juice (add water), give it to your child only during meal times. Between meals, you should give your child water only.

Your child should drink only about 16 ounces of cow’s milk per day. Drinking any sugary drinks can increase the risk for cavities. Also too much milk may cause your child to not get enough iron (iron deficient). Cut back on your child’s snacking and limit snacks to low-sugar foods.

Scientists have learned that mothers with cavities tend to have children with cavities. Also, these cavities are more severe. Mothers can pass cavity-causing germs to their children. This is why you should keep your mouth cavity free and visit the dentist regularly. Anyone else who cares for your child should do the same.

Fluoride helps prevent cavities. It is also considered a ‘vitamin’ for teeth. There are three main sources for fluoride—water, toothpaste, and professionally applied.


Fluoridated City Water

Most city water has fluoride added. If your family uses well water, it may have too little or too much fluoride. Ask your doctor or dentist to run a test to see how much fluoride is in your well water. Your child may need a different amount of fluoride. Ask your doctor or dentist to help you learn the best way for your child to get the right amount. They may prescribe a supplement if needed. You might be able to give your child bottled water that has fluoride added. Here is a website to learn more about fluoridated bottled water.


Many brands of toothpaste have fluoride added. Check the label to make sure, or ask your doctor or dentist to recommend a brand to use. Use a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste to brush your child’s teeth. See the section on Brushing Teeth Tab 2 in Your Baby’s Mouth section for more information.

Fluoride Varnish

Professionally Applied

Varnish is a type of fluoride that a dentist or doctor paints on your baby’s teeth. It can reduce (decrease) cavities in baby teeth by one-third when painted on at least twice a year for children at risk for cavities. Varnish can be applied as soon as the first tooth comes into the mouth. Ask your dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your baby’s teeth.

Discontinue use of a pacifier after age one year because it can increase your child’s risk of ear infections. Also, discourage thumb sucking. Long-term pacifier use and thumb sucking may cause your child to have teeth that do not fit together. This is also known as a ‘hole in your smile’ (see picture). To prevent tooth decay, avoid dipping the pacifier in any sweetened foods (e.g. honey, chocolate syrup, etc.).

Children are usually walking in this age range. Make sure the child’s surroundings are safe. Cap electrical outlets and cushion sharp corners on tables and bookshelves. Cover bathtub nozzles. Do not force-feed your child because the utensils may damage his/her teeth. Contact your dentist if your child falls and injures his/her mouth or teeth. If you do not have a dentist, have a doctor look at the injury.

Social and Emotional Growth (Development)

At this age your child is moving, exploring, sharing, and imitating. He/she is beginning to talk. Children this age begin seeing themselves as being different from you. They focus on ‘doing it myself’. This may lead to struggles for control, and your child may have tantrums.

Your toddler may wish to try brushing his/her own teeth and you should encourage this. Use water only or a fluoride-free toothpaste when a child is brushing his/her own teeth. After the child has brushed, an adult should complete the brushing using fluoride toothpaste. Children cannot fully brush their teeth on their own until they are 8 or 9 years old. Another way to think about this is ‘until they are old enough to clean your kitchen floor’. The amount of toothpaste you should use is about the size of a grain of rice (see picture in Brushing Teeth Tab 2 in Your Baby’s Mouth section).

After simple routines, reward your toddler with things that are worth valuing (like reading books). Simple routines may include brushing teeth and going to the dentist. Consider having your child pretend to ‘brush the teeth’ of a favorite stuffed toy or doll as part of a bedtime routine.

Avoid using foods as ‘treats’. Take your child to a dentist for his/her first check-up by their first birthday. Ask your doctor for a referral to a dentist that cares for young children. Set a good example for your child by taking care of your own teeth and gums. Help prevent passing germs that cause cavities to your child by taking care of your mouth.