Nurturing a Healthy Smile

Early attention to oral health is essential.

Nurturing a Healthy Smile

Image(s) licensed by Ingram Publishing


When baby’s first teeth erupt, we are eager to show them off to family and friends. After all, this is a precious moment in our baby’s development!

These first teeth (called primary teeth) are precious in their own right. They are key to our baby’s future ability to chew and speak. Plus, they hold a space for permanent teeth to come in. When baby teeth are lost due to dental decay, it can negatively affect all three areas of development. That’s why good oral health begins at birth.

Tooth decay is caused when food or liquids containing sugars (including breast milk, formulas, and juice) are left in the mouth for a long time or by the transfer of bacteria from your mouth to baby’s mouth.

Here are some tips to help you set the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles from your baby.

Before Teething

  • It’s important to begin the habit of cleaning your baby’s mouth before teeth come in. Wipe the inside of your baby’s mouth with a clean wet cloth after each feeding.
  • If you are using a pacifier, never dip it in sugar, honey or other sweets.
  • If you are bottle feeding your baby (breast milk or formula), don’t use the bottle as a pacifier. This will reduce the amount of time your baby is exposed to sugars.
  • For the same reason, switch to a cup when your child is old enough to sit up. Limit fruit juices to once daily.
  • Clean your baby’s mouth after giving medication unless it is sugar free.
  • To avoid giving your baby bacteria that can lead to tooth decay, don’t put baby bottles, pacifiers, spoons, etc., in your mouth and then in your baby’s.

Teething & Beyond

  • When a few baby teeth appear, begin using a small soft toothbrush to clean them. Use water only. Brush in a circular motion twice a day and after the baby’s night time feeding.
  • Avoid giving teething biscuits to your baby as they contain sugar and could be a choking hazard. (And don’t use teething gels or ointments, they may not contain sugar but they do contain medicines that can harm your baby.)
  • To help your child cope with the discomfort of teething offer a chilled teething ring (that contains water only) or a cold washcloth to chew on. You can also massage your baby’s gums with your clean finger or a baby washcloth. If your child is in severe discomfort, infant Tylenol may be helpful.
  • Check for signs of dental decay. Lift your baby’s lips and check the front and back of their front teeth for any chalky white or brown spots. If you find any, see your baby’s dentist.
  • Take your child to the dentist by their first birthday for a quick look to make sure there is no decay starting.


About Teething

Common signs of teething include: drooling, irritability, sore and swollen gums, loss of appetite, rashes and a need to chew on things.
High fever, severe diarrhea and vomiting are not common symptoms of teething. If they occur take your baby to the doctor.

Author: Brian Convey

Brian Convey is a Registered Dental Hygienist and Manager, Oral Health Division, Durham Region Health Department.

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