Baby teeth development
Babies are born with a full set of 20 baby teeth hidden in their gums – 10 up the top and 10 down the bottom. As each baby tooth gets to the surface of the gum, the gum opens up to show the tooth.
For most babies, teeth start to appear between 6 and 10 months. But in some children, teeth appear as early as 3 months. In others, they don’t arrive until around 12 months. A very small number of children are born with 1-2 teeth. Most children have their full set of baby teeth by 3 years of age.
Baby teeth can arrive in any order, but the central bottom teeth often come through first.
Dental care for baby teeth
Dental care for baby teeth can start before your baby’s first tooth appears. Once your baby is about 3 months old, you can gently wipe your baby’s gums using a damp, clean face washer or gauze twice a day. This helps your baby get ready for brushing when the first tooth appears.
As soon as the first tooth appears, clean teeth using a soft infant toothbrush designed for children under 2 years. If your baby doesn’t like the toothbrush in their mouth, you can keep using a clean, damp face washer or gauze.
Brush with water only at least twice a day, particularly after the first and last feeds. Don’t use toothpaste at this age, unless recommended by your dentist. Find out how to brush baby teeth in dental care for babies.
It’s important to see your dentist if your baby is born with teeth or when baby’s first tooth comes through.
Preventing early tooth decay
Baby teeth are at risk of decay as soon as they come through. Tooth decay prevention starts early with a couple of simple precautions.
Give your newborn only breastmilk or formula until you introduce solids at around 6 months.
Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. When your baby is asleep, there’s less saliva in baby’s mouth to protect teeth. If your baby falls asleep with a bottle, milk might slowly drip into your baby’s mouth and soak teeth. This puts your baby at risk of tooth decay. Also note that putting your baby to sleep with a bottle is a choking risk.
If your baby likes a dummy, don’t dip it into food, sugar or liquids like honey. And don’t clean your baby’s dummy by putting it in your mouth. Make sure to wash and sterilise it instead.