Caring for your child's teeth

Healthy teeth are important for your child's chewing and nutrition. They also help their speech, health and wellbeing. Daily cleaning and avoiding sugary food and drink protects them against tooth decay.

How many teeth your child will have

Every baby is born with 20 baby teeth under their gums. By about 6 to 7 months old, your child's first teeth begin to appear.

By about 2 and a half years old, your child will have the full set of 10 teeth on the top and 10 teeth on the bottom gum.

They will be aged 12 or older before the last baby tooth falls out.

0 to 6 months

Start taking care of your baby's mouth from birth. This good habit will set them up with a healthy mouth, teeth and gums for their lifetime.

Before teeth appear, clean your child's gums twice a day with a clean soft wash cloth or gauze.

As soon as the first tooth appears, introduce gentle toothbrushing twice a day. Use water and a small, soft toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste at this age.

Prevent tooth decay

Sugary food and drinks damage your baby's teeth and cause decay. Never put sweet drinks including fruit juice into the bottle. Do not add sugar, syrup, honey or anything sweet to your baby's foods.


Tooth decay


If your baby uses a soother (dummy) never dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or anything sweet.

After 6 months

Continue mouth and teeth cleaning every day, at bedtime and one other time. The night time brushing is the most important, as food left on the teeth overnight can lead to decay.

Regular visits to dentist

Bring your child for a visit to their dentist on a regular basis. Dental check-ups can help to prevent any dental problems that may arise.

Water supply

Where there is a choice, connect to a public water supply that has fluoride. Fluoride in the our water supply protects teeth from decay.

Give calcium

Encourage your child to eat foods that have a lot of calcium such as milk and cheese. Calcium helps build strong teeth.

Prevent tooth decay

Avoid giving your child sugary foods and drinks. They can damage teeth and cause tooth decay.

Read food labels. Sugar is also called sucrose, glucose, fructose or maltose on labels. 'Low sugar' or 'No added sugar' on the label does not mean that the food or drink is sugar-free.

Only give your child milk or water to drink. Try to give cooled boiled water only until your child is 1 year old.


Never put sweet drinks, including fruit juice, into the bottle. Never give fizzy drinks to your child

If you do give your child fruit juice, use 'watered down' and unsweetened fruit juice to drink. Juices for babies contain sugar, which can damage teeth.


Research has shown that breastfeeding up to 12 months of age is linked with less tooth decay.

Research suggests a potential link between tooth decay and on demand and night-time feeds.

Get advice from your public health nurse or GP if you plan to continue breastfeeding after your baby is 12 months.

Cups and soothers

Start using a cup from 6 months old and wean your child off bottle feeding by 12 months. If you give your child a soother, then make sure it is clean. Do not dip it in sugar, syrup, honey or anything sweet.

When a child doesn't want their teeth brushed

If your child resists having their teeth brushed, or wants to do it themselves, don't give up. You can try singing a song as you brush your child's teeth. Let your child try brushing their own teeth after you have done it. Use your imagination to make brushing fun.

Injuries to baby teeth

Falls or injuries can loosen, break, knock out or push a baby tooth up into the gum. This might damage the developing adult teeth. If your child injures a tooth in a fall or accident, take them to a dentist to have their mouth and teeth checked.

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2018
Next review due: 18 September 2021