Topic Overview

A child’s dental care really starts with his or her
mother’s healthy pregnancy, because baby teeth begin to form before birth. If
you are pregnant, eat a balanced, nutritious diet and be sure to get enough
vitamins and minerals. Pregnant women should have a complete dental exam and
have any cavities or gum disease treated. For more information, see the topic

After birth, good nutrition plays a role in your
baby’s dental health, especially if you are breastfeeding. Even before teeth
break through the gum (erupt), you can build good dental health habits:

  • Parents and caregivers often share spoons, forks, and other
    utensils with babies. The saliva you may leave on the utensil contains bacteria
    that can cause tooth decay. In some instances, kissing can also transfer
    bacteria from adult to child. You can help prevent early childhood tooth decay
    in your child by making sure that your family practices good dental health
    habits. Keeping your own teeth and gums healthy reduces the risk of
    transferring tooth decay bacteria to your child.
  • If you
    bottle-feed, do not put your baby to bed with a bottle of juice, milk, formula,
    or other sugary liquid. The opportunity for tooth decay to develop increases
    while these liquids stay in the mouth (bottle mouth). Do not prop the bottle
    up in your baby’s mouth. Remove the bottle as soon as your baby is done feeding
    or is asleep. Breastfeeding your infant to sleep is safe.

Your baby’s first tooth usually erupts at about 6 months.
Many babies experience some discomfort during teething and may be fussy. For
more information, see the topic Teething.

Keep your child away
from cigarette smoke (secondhand
). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the
development of tooth decay and gum disease.footnote 1

Related Information



  1. American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products
    . Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD – Dentistry

Current as ofMay 7, 2017