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 examination and have any cavities or gum disease treated. For more information, see the topic Pregnancy.
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 (second-hand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.footnote 1
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.