Baby to Toddler (0-3)

Even though they have fewer teeth - and none at all, for a while - babies require the same attention to oral health care as adults.

Clean your baby's gums and teeth from birth.

  • Your baby's gums still need to be wiped with a soft, clean cloth after each feeding to get rid of unwanted bacteria. 
  • Once the first tooth comes in, use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste to keep teeth and gums healthy.
  • When two teeth touch and you're not able to clean between them with the brush, it's time to start flossing.

Take your child to the dentist by age 1 or six months after the first tooth comes in.

  • Starting dental visits at this stage ensures that your child develops a good relationship with the dentist from a young age and establishes a dental home for any future emergencies or problems.
  • During the first checkup, the dentist will make sure everything is developing properly and provide a few tips on caring for a young child's teeth.
  • Learn more about our Dentist By 1 program and take the pledge to take your child to the dentist by age 1.

Don't wash a pacifier with your own mouth or share utensils, straws or food.

  • Oral bacteria can be passed from mouth to mouth so carry extra pacifiers if one falls on the floor.
  • Resist sharing utensils, straws or food when your child begins to eat solid foods.

Don't give milk, juice or other sugary drinks at naptime or bedtime.

  • Offer water rather than milk or juice at naptime or bedtime since prolonged exposure to the sugar in those drinks can cause tooth decay. Learn more about how drink choices affect your child's oral health.

Other tips.

Your baby will most likely experience some discomfort as the first teeth make their debut. You can try teething rings, a cool spoon, a pacifier or a cold, wet washcloth to help ease the pain. Massaging your baby's gums using a clean finger may also help.

While still a baby, realize that pacifier use and thumb-sucking are harmless at this age, but plan on keeping an eye on those habits as your child gets older. Chronic thumb-sucking or use of pacifiers after the age of 3 may cause baby teeth to move out of their proper position and permanent teeth to come in incorrectly.

Young children often swallow most of the toothpaste put on their brush, so use just a smear of fluoride toothpaste until age 2. After children turn 2, use a pea-sized amount and continue to supervise or brush their teeth for them. Make sure they spit out the excess and rinse afterward Help your child brush properly twice a day.

Healthy primary teeth set the stage for a healthy permanent set so how you take care of your baby and child's teeth in the first few years can have an impact for the rest of your child's life. Read more about caring for your child's oral health.