Mom’s Guide to Infant Dental Health

March 1, 2018

Mom’s Guide to Infant Dental Health

Having a new baby is both a wonderful and a challenging time, and we are always available to help you as you learn to care for your baby’s oral health. Starting oral care early is an important part of establishing your child’s long-term oral and overall health

Cleaning your baby’s mouth and teeth

You should begin cleaning your new baby’s mouth shortly after birth, as plaque and bacteria will begin to collect on your baby’s gums after every feeding. Start cleaning the gums by gently massaging them with your clean finger, and later begin to use a damp washcloth or a soft infant toothbrush and water.

As soon as your baby’s teeth begin to erupt, they should be cleaned. Use a soft infant toothbrush with either no toothpaste at all or a tiny dab of non-fluoride infant toothpaste to gently clean your child’s new teeth. Unless advised otherwise by your dentist, do not use fluoride toothpastes until age 3. After age 3, and only once your child can be reasonably trusted to spit the toothpaste out, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Remember to bring your child in for regular exams, usually starting around 1-year-old, so that we may check your child’s teeth for any chalky white or brown spots, which could be the beginning of tooth decay.

Please refer to our Children’s Dental Health section for more information on dental development and care as your child grows.


Teething generally happens between 6 months and 3 years of age. The eruption of your infant’s primary teeth can cause some common physical and behavioural changes and while this can be difficult, it’s a normal part of your child’s development, and the more severe reactions should not last for long periods of time. If symptoms do persist, it’s always recommended to see your infant’s dentist or doctor.

Common symptoms of teething in babies may include:

  • sore, red gums around where the tooth is coming through
  • increased irritability
  • placing objects or fingers in the mouth, and biting down on them
  • increased salivation
  • loss of appetite or becoming picky about foods
  • flushed cheeks
  • restlessness
  • disturbed sleep

These symptoms can usually be soothed at home but please seek medical advice if you have concerns.
Your child may also display symptoms such as mild diarrhea or diaper rash while a tooth is erupting. Ear pulling may be a sign of teething, but may also indicate a possible ear infection. If you are unsure or if symptoms become more severe, seek medical advice.
Teething does not normally cause fever, vomiting, or more severe diarrhea. If your child experiences these problems, seek medical advice.

Advice on teething
Sore gums from teething usually lasts for a few days at a time. To provide relief, you can try the following:

  • Under supervision, give your baby something firm to chew on. A special teething ring is an option, and these can be cooled in the fridge but should not be frozen. Teething rings should never be tied around a baby’s neck, even if the baby is continually dropping the ring. A simple piece of clean, wet, cold flannel cloth may also be effective in soothing sore gums. Be careful to avoid prolonged contact between your child’s gums and cold objects, and never put frozen objects in your baby’s mouth, as this can cause burns. Never put anything in a child’s mouth that might cause him or her to choke.
  • A cool sugar-free drink can help to soothe a baby’s gums – water is best.
  • An infant’s sore gums may feel better when gentle pressure is applied. Try massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger or the back of a small, cold spoon.
  • Try to distract a fussy, teething baby by playing.
  • Teething biscuits and frozen bananas are not recommended, as these objects promote tooth decay and may cause your child to choke. Don’t dip teething rings in anything sugary – even new teeth need to be protected from decay!

If your infant experiences teething pain lasting more than a few days, please visit us or seek medical advice to rule out anything more serious.

Baby Bottle Cavities (Baby Bottle Caries)

Young children with newly erupted teeth are highly susceptible to tooth decay if put to bed with a bottle containing milk, juice, or other sugar-containing liquids. When your infant is sleeping, there is decreased amount of saliva flowing, which slows the rate at which the liquid from the bottle is naturally cleaned from the infant’s teeth. The liquid pools around the upper front teeth and creates an excellent environment to promote the growth of decay-causing bacteria.

Discontinuing the nighttime bottle before the first tooth appears and cleaning your baby’s gums and teeth before bed can help prevent decay.

Signs of baby bottle caries
Check your baby’s teeth regularly for any chalky white or brown spots, which could be the beginning of tooth decay. Brown teeth with fragmented edges or upper front teeth that break easily are signs of baby bottle caries. If you see these signs, you should see your baby’s dentist right away.

Your child’s first dental check-up

The Canadian Dental Association’s guideline is simple: first tooth, first visit! It is recommended that your child’s first visit to the dentist takes place by their first birthday.

Starting early will help your child to become used to visiting the dentist, and set them (and you!) up for a lifetime of easier visits, and better oral health. Our dentists will take the time to get to know your child and set them at ease, then examine your child’s mouth and teeth and make recommendations about home dental care. As your child grows, our Youth Hygiene Program will focus on his or her basic oral health education, emphasizing regular personal and professional hygiene, reviewing flossing and brushing techniques, and providing helpful tips for preventing cavities.