Dental Care From 6 Months to 3 Years

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Dental Care From 6 Months to 3 Years

Dental Care From 6 Months to 3 Years

Topic Overview

Your baby's first tooth usually breaks through the gum
(erupts) at about 6 months. Many times you might not know that your baby has a new tooth coming in until you see it or hear it click against an object, such as a spoon. Some babies may show signs of discomfort from sore and sensitive gums, be cranky, drool, and have other mild symptoms. These symptoms usually begin about 3 to 5 days before a tooth erupts and go away as soon as the tooth breaks through the gum. For more information, see the topic Teething.

By the time your child is 6
months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having
future dental problems.footnote 1, footnote 2
This may include a dental exam of the mother and her dental history, as the
condition of her teeth can often predict her child's teeth. If your doctor
feels your child will have dental problems, be sure your child sees a
dentist before his or her first birthday or 6 months
after the first
primary teeth appear, whichever comes first. After your first visit, schedule
regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist recommends.

Experts recommend that your child's visits to a dentist start within 6 months after the first teeth appear or at 12 months of age, whichever comes first.footnote 2 Babies with dental problems caused by injury,
disease, or a developmental problem should be seen by a dentist right away. A
children's dentist (pediatric dentist) is specially trained to treat these
problems. If these dental problems are not limited to the
surfaces of the teeth, your baby should also be seen by a children's doctor
(pediatrician) or your family doctor. For more
information, see the topics Mouth and Dental Injuries and Mouth Problems,

Here are good habits
for your child's dental health.

  • Use a soft cloth to clean your baby's gums. Start a few days after birth, and do this until the first teeth come in.
  • When your child's first teeth come in, clean them with a soft toothbrush. Ask your dentist if it's okay to use a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • 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. You can start offering liquids from a cup
    when your baby is about 6 months old.
  • Young
    children get and give lots of kisses. But saliva contains bacteria that can
    cause tooth decay. You can help prevent early childhood tooth decay in your
    child by making sure that your family practices good dental health habits. If a
    family member has gum problems, he or she may transfer the bacteria to your
    baby. Talk to your family about this.
  • Give your child
    nutritious foods to maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid
    tooth decay. These include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid
    foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries,
    pasta, and white bread.
  • Discuss your child's
    fluoride needs with your dentist. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend a supplement or a gel or varnish that he or she would apply to your child's teeth. Use supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.

Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand
). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum
disease.footnote 3

Related Information



  1. American Academy of Pediatrics (2003, reaffirmed 2009). Oral health risk assessment timing and establishment of the dental home. Pediatrics, 111(5): 1113–1116. Also available online:
  2. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (2012). Guidelines on infant oral health care. Available online:
  3. American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products
    . Available online:


ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry

Current as ofJanuary 25, 2018