Dental Health (Infants and Young Children)

Healthy teeth are an important part of your child’s overall health.

  • A child’s first set of teeth are called primary or baby teeth.
  • Babies usually start cutting teeth when they are around six months old.
  • Most children have all 20 primary teeth by age three.
  • Permanent teeth start to come in by age six, with most in place by the age 13.

Good dental care should begin before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.

How to care for your infant’s/child’s teeth:

  • Even before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
  • Once your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). You can also use a damp, clean cloth to clean them.
  • Once your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing in between them.
  • Around age two, your child should learn to spit while brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this might make swallowing toothpaste more likely.
  • Kids ages three and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Young children are not able to clean their own teeth. As a parent, you must do it for them when they are very young and do it with them as they get older. Children from 3 to 6 years of age should be assisted by an adult in brushing their teeth. Check out this video demonstration.

Development of good oral health habits are a lifelong skill and will contribute to healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition and nutrition habits also contribute to dental health.

  • Breastfeeding is best for babies. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby until six months of age, and continuing beyond that with the addition of solid foods.
  • If pacifiers are used, never dip or coat the pacifier in a sweet solution to make it taste better. Also, a parent should not place the pacifier in their own mouth to clean or moisten it because bacteria from the parent’s mouth will end up in the child’s mouth.
  • Your child should stop any pacifier or thumb sucking habits by the time they are four to five years old because the sucking can cause crooked second teeth. Ask your dentist or health-care provider for help to reduce or stop using a pacifier.
  • Avoid sweet and sticky foods and drinks. The sugars in these foods are used by germs in the mouth to make acid. This acid makes holes or cavities in teeth. Any sweetened drinks such as soda pop, fruit punches or powdered sweetened drinks are not recommended for children. These can cause severe tooth decay. Plain water is the best drink between meals and before sleep.

Visiting the Dentist

Helping your child develop good oral health begins at birth. Early childhood tooth decay can affect your child’s health and cause pain, making it hard for her to sleep, eat or speak. It can also affect her ability to concentrate and learn.

  • Children who develop dental decay at an early age are more likely to suffer from it throughout childhood.
  • The first checkup by the dentist is recommended by the first birthday and, in most cases, the teeth should be checked every six months after that.
  • During the first few dental visits, the dentist will look at your child’s teeth and talk to you about taking care of them.
  • Cleanings and other treatments usually start when your child is about age three.
  • Regular checkups are important to prevent problems and to fix small problems before they become big ones.
  • Visit the Health and Community Services website to see what is covered in Newfoundland and Labrador’s Children’s Dental Health Program.
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Last updated: 2021-03-12