By Raising Children Network
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Newborn baby being entertained by finger puppets

did you knowQuestion mark symbol

  • Baby teeth (also known as primary teeth) develop while babies are still in the womb.
  • When babies are born, they have a full set of 20 baby teeth. These are hidden in their gums.
Although your baby’s first teeth begin to form in the womb, they don’t usually appear until between 6 and 10 months of age.

Teeth development

Babies are born with a full set of 20 baby teeth in their gums – 10 up the top and 10 down the bottom. Each baby tooth emerges (‘erupts’) slowly over several weeks or months. As it gets to the surface, the gum opens up to show the tooth.

Most first teeth appear between 6 and 10 months, but different children get teeth at different times. In some children, teeth appear as early as three months. In others, they don’t arrive until around 12 months.

A very small number of children are born with one or two teeth. If this occurs, see a dentist. The dentist can check whether the teeth are loose and let you know the best thing to do.

Most children will have their full set of baby teeth by three years of age.

Caring for your baby’s teeth and gums

Tooth care begins even before the first tooth appears. You can clean your baby’s gums and tongue using water and a clean face washer.

As soon as the first tooth appears (usually around 6-10 months), use a wet face washer, gauze or soft infant toothbrush designed for children under two years. Brush with water only at least twice a day, particularly after the first and last feeds.

Preventing early tooth decay

The fight against tooth decay starts early with a couple of simple precautions.

Babies aged 0-6 months need only breastmilk or formula. When your baby’s old enough to drink something other than milk, water is the best option. Drinks with sugar in them can be a factor in tooth decay.

If your baby likes a dummy, don’t dip it in food or liquids such as honey or sugar.

    Video Caring for your baby's teeth

    This short video demonstrates how to care for children’s teeth. It includes advice on encouraging children to drink tap water, brushing children’s teeth as soon as the first ones are through and avoiding sugary drinks. Parents also talk about how important it is to avoid giving your child a bottle of milk in bed.
    • Last updated or reviewed 27-01-2012
    • Acknowledgements Raising Children Network would like to thank Martine Calache, Professor Hanny Calache and Susanne Sofronoff of Dental Health Services Victoria for their help in reviewing and writing this article.