Dental Care From Birth to 6 Months

Topic Overview

A child's dental care really starts with his or her mother's healthy pregnancy, because baby teeth begin to form before birth. If you are pregnant, eat a balanced, nutritious diet and be sure to get enough vitamins and minerals. Pregnant women should have a complete dental exam and have any cavities or gum disease treated. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy.

After birth, good nutrition plays a role in your baby's dental health, especially if you are breast-feeding. Even before teeth break through the gum (erupt), you can build good dental health habits:

  • Parents and caregivers often share spoons, forks, and other utensils with babies. The saliva you may leave on the utensil contains bacteria that can cause tooth decay. In some instances, kissing can also transfer bacteria from adult to child. You can help prevent early childhood tooth decay in your child by making sure that your family practices good dental health habits. Keeping your own teeth and gums healthy reduces the risk of transferring tooth decay bacteria to your child.
  • If you bottle-feed, do not put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, formula, or other sugary liquid. The opportunity for tooth decay to develop increases while these liquids stay in the mouth (bottle mouth). Do not prop the bottle up in your baby's mouth. Remove the bottle as soon as your baby is done feeding or is asleep. Breast-feeding your infant to sleep is safe.

Your baby's first tooth usually erupts at about 6 months. Many babies experience some discomfort during teething and may be fussy. For more information, see the topic Teething.

Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.1

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products. Available online: http://www.ada.org/news/929.aspx.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised January 7, 2013

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