A Healthy Mouth for Your Baby
Before your baby is born
What you eat when you are pregnant is important. Eating right will help you and your growing baby stay healthy. Follow your doctor's advice for eating the right foods and taking vitamins.
It's also time to think about how you'll feed your baby. Remember, breast-feeding is best.
Ann Talks with Maria
"What are you doing?" asked Ann. Ann and her friend, Maria, were watching Maria's children play.
"I'm cleaning my baby's teeth," said Maria.
"But your baby hardly has any teeth!" said Ann. "Yes, but my dentist said there are things I can do to keep my baby from getting tooth decay," said Maria.
"But don't baby teeth just fall out?" asked Ann.
"Yes, but tooth decay can cause pain for the baby. And baby teeth hold space for adult teeth," said Maria.
"What else did the dentist say?" asked Ann.
"She told me how fluoride protects teeth. She also said to feed my baby healthy foods and not to put my baby to bed with a bottle," said Maria.
"When do you have to start taking care of a baby's teeth?" asked Ann.
"As soon as they come in. Teeth can decay as soon as they appear in the mouth," said Maria.
"I'll have to start thinking of those things soon!" laughed Ann.
1. Protect your baby's teeth with fluoride
Fluoride (said like floor-eyed) protects teeth from tooth decay and helps heal early decay.
Fluoride is in the drinking water of some towns and cities.
Ask your dentist or doctor if your water has fluoride in it. If it doesn't, talk to your dentist or doctor about giving you a prescription for fluoride drops for your baby.
2. Check and clean your baby's teeth
Check your baby's teeth
- Healthy teeth should be all one color. If you see spots or stains on the teeth, take your baby to your dentist.
- Clean your baby's teeth as soon as they come in with a clean, soft cloth or a baby's toothbrush. Clean the teeth at least once a day. It's best to clean them right before bedtime.
- At about age 2, most of your child's teeth will be in. Now you can start brushing them with a small drop of fluoride toothpaste.
- As your child gets older let him use his own toothbrush -- but you put the toothpaste on the toothbrush until about age 6.
- Very young children cannot get their teeth clean by themselves. Until your children are about 7 years old, you should brush their teeth after they do.
3. Feed your baby healthy food
Choose foods that do not have a lot of sugar in them. Give your child fruits and vegetables instead of candy and cookies.
4. Prevent baby bottle tooth decay
- Do not put your baby to bed with a bottle at night or at nap time (If you put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it only with water).
Milk, formula, juices, and other sweet drinks such as soda all have sugar in them. Sucking on a bottle filled with liquids that have sugar in them can cause tooth decay. Decayed teeth can cause pain and can cost a lot to fill.
- During the day, do not give your baby a bottle filled with sweet drinks to use like a pacifier.
- If your baby uses a pacifier, do not dip it in anything sweet like sugar or honey.
- Near his first birthday, you should teach your child to drink from a cup instead of a bottle.
5. Take your child to the dentist
Ask your dentist when to bring your child in for his first visit. Usually, the dentist will want to see a child between ages 1 and 2. At this first visit, your dentist can quickly check your child's teeth.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. For additional written health information, please contact the Health Information Center at the Cleveland Clinic (216) 444-3771 or toll-free (800) 223-2273 extension 43771 or visit www.clevelandclinic.org/health This document was last reviewed on: 7/28/2003