Oral Health for Babies and Infants (0 to 3 years)

Tooth decay is preventable. Follow the tips on this page to keep your baby's teeth healthy.

Children's first teeth (baby teeth) are just as important as their adult teeth. 

Healthy teeth are important for eating, drinking, talking and smiling.

Baby teeth are important to guide the adult teeth into the right position. If they are lost early then the spaces for the adult teeth can be lost. The adult teeth may come through crooked.

Tooth decay can cause pain, infection, sleepless nights, time off nursery or school and time off work for parents and carers.

Small children often need a general anaesthetic to have decayed teeth removed. Tooth decay is the most common reason for 6 to 10 years olds to be admitted to hospital.

  • Avoid using dummies after 12 months of age
  • Don't dip dummies in anything sweet such as sugar or jam
  • Your child's speech development can be affected by dummies and thumb sucking
  • Using dummies or thumb sucking can cause a gap between top and bottom from teeth
  • Don't let your child run around, talk or make sounds with a dummy or thumb in their mouth
  • Never suck your baby’s dummy to ‘clean’ it. This will spread germs between you and your baby

  • The first teeth (baby teeth) to appear are usually the bottom front teeth (incisors) around 5-7 months, followed by the top front teeth   
  • Children should have 20 baby teeth by the time they are 2 ½ years old
  • Signs of teething may include:
    • sore and red gums
    • red cheeks
    • may rub their ear
    • dribbling
    • chew on things a lot
    • more unsettled than usual
  • Your child may find it helpful to bite or rub their gums on something e.g. a teething ring
  • Sugar-free paracetamol can be given to relieve teething symptoms in babies and young children aged 2 months or older
  • NHS.uk has tips for helping your teething baby
  • If you decide to try teething gels or powders, speak to your local community pharmacist to make sure they are suitable for the age of your baby
  • Teething should not cause other symptoms, such as diarrhoea and a high fever.
  • If you are concerned your child is unwell while they are teething call NHS 111 or contact your GP

  • Children should start going to the dentist for regular check-ups with the rest of the family as soon as their first tooth appears
  • The Dental Check by One programme encourages all parents and carers to take their child to the dentist before their 1st birthday
  • The dentist can advise on brushing, healthy eating and regular check-ups
  • NHS dental care is free for all pregnant mothers and up to 12 months after birth
  • NHS dental treatment is free for children under 18 or under 19 and in qualifying full-time education
  • Adults should have a check-up at least once every 2 years and children at least once a year
  • Put your postcode into this website to find a dentist


Prepare your baby or toddler for visiting the dentist

  • Milk and water are the safest drinks for teeth
  • Breast feeding up to 12 months reduces your baby's risk of tooth decay
  • Breast milk, formula milk or water are the only drinks you should put in your baby's bottle
  • Never put juice or sugary drinks in your baby's bottle
  • From 6 months old, offer your baby drinks in a non-valved free-flowing cup (a cup that drips when you turn it upside down)
  • Move to a cup without a lid instead of bottles around 12 months
  • Keep sugary food and drink to mealtimes only
  • Be aware many pre-prepared baby foods and drinks can be high in sugar
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks in the hour before bedtime
  • If your child needs medicine, ask your local community pharmacist or GP for a sugar-free option

Further information

  • Brush your baby's teeth as soon as the first tooth appears
  • Brush teeth last thing at night and one other time that fits in with your routine
  • Use a baby toothbrush with a smear (tiny amount) of fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents tooth decay
  • Brush with a toothpaste with at least 1000 ppm fluoride. Most own brand supermarket toothpastes are ok
  • By the time your baby has all their teeth, make sure you brush them for 2 minutes
  • Brush all the surfaces of the teeth and gumline in small circles
  • The easiest way to brush a baby's teeth is to sit them on your knee with their head resting against your chest
  • After brushing wipe left over toothpaste from your baby's face and lips
  • Treat toothpaste like any other medicine and keep it out of reach of children
  • Set a good example. Let them see you brushing your teeth
  • Brushing your child's teeth can be difficult. You are not alone!
  • Some brushing is better than none, don't give up
  • Consider using rewards, games, singing or clapping to make tooth brushing fun

Further information