Oral Health - Babies

Taking care of your child's oral health is a key part of their overall health and well-being.

How do I take care of my baby’s mouth and teeth?

  • Before teeth have erupted (pushed through the gum), gently clean your baby’s mouth twice a day using a clean piece of gauze or the corner of a clean washcloth.
  • When baby teeth start to appear, use a small soft toothbrush to clean them.
  • For children under age 3, no fluoride toothpaste is needed unless advised by an oral health professional.
  • Oral Care Instructions for Children are different depending on your child’s age and should be considered as your baby grows
  • Check your baby’s teeth. Lift the baby’s top lip and look at the front and back of the top four teeth. If there are any brown or white spots between the teeth or along the gum line, take your child to an oral care provider.

Give Your Child a Healthy Happy Smile printable resource (PDF file)
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  • Baby teeth are important for chewing food, learning to speak properly, holding space for adult teeth and general good health.
  • Your baby will develop 20 baby (primary) teeth.
  • The first tooth usually appears between 5 and 10 months of age.
  • If not properly cared for, baby teeth can get cavities (decay) and cause the child pain.
  • If baby teeth are removed too early, permanent teeth may grow in the wrong way.
  • Your child's first dental visit should be around the age of one or shortly after the primary teeth begin to erupt.
  • Your child should visit the dentist before there is a problem with his or her teeth.
  • Prepare your child prior to the check-up by letting them know what happens at the dental office.
  • When talking to your child about a dental visit do not use words like hurt or pain.

    Primary teeth (development) chart

Primary teeth chart
Upper teeth When teeth come in When teeth fall out
Central incisor 7 - 12 month 6 - 8 yrs.
Lateral incisor 9 - 13 month 7 - 8 yrs.
Canine (cuspid) 16 - 22 month 10 - 12 yrs.
First molar 13 - 19 month 9 - 11 yrs.
Second molar 25 - 33 month 10 - 12 yrs.
Lower teeth When teeth come in When teeth fall out
Central incisor 6 - 10 month 6 - 8 yrs.
Lateral incisor 7 - 16 month 7 - 8 yrs.
Canine (cuspid) 16 - 23 month 9 - 12 yrs.
First molar 12 - 18 month 9 - 11 yrs.
Second molar 20 - 31 month 10 - 12 yrs.


Information courtesy of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
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What should I know about teething?

  • Teething is a normal process for new teeth to break through the gums with some symptoms beginning months before the tooth appears.
  • Teething may be associated with:
    • discomfort
    • fussiness
    • drooling
    • increased sucking, chewing or biting
  • Fever and diarrhea are not usually related to teething. If your child experiences these symptoms consult your health care provider.

How can I help my child with teething?

  • Give your baby a Canadian Standards approved teething ring that has been chilled (not frozen).
  • Do not use gels and ointments, as these can be harmful. Consult your health care professional.
  • Massage your baby’s gum with a clean finger.

What should I know about pacifiers?

  • Many babies never use a pacifier. Use of a pacifier is not recommended because it can interfere with breastfeeding.
  • If you decide to use a pacifier, it should not be given to baby until breastfeeding is well established.
  • If using a pacifier, select one that is Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approved.
  • Do not dip it in honey, sugar or sweet liquid, as this can cause tooth decay.
  • Do not hang it around your baby’s neck with a string. Your baby could be accidentally strangled.
  • Do not clean a pacifier in your own mouth to avoid spreading bacteria.
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thumb and finger sucking

My child sucks her thumb…Is this normal?

Thumb and finger sucking (PDF file) (order resource) is a healthy, normal and natural habit for very young children. It is soothing and helps them to cope with different situations and feeling such as:

  • Boredom
  • Loneliness
  • Worry
  • Stress

Thumb sucking is common for children up to age of four. After four, it can affect the positioning of the permanent teeth. If this habit continues, consult your oral care professional.

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A close up image of early childhood tooth decay.Early Childhood Tooth Decay (ECTD) is a dental condition where baby teeth decay quickly, which can be expensive and difficult to treat.

What might my child experience if they have ECTD?

Your child may experience:

  • Pain
  • Trouble eating
  • Problems with speech
  • Poor self-image
  • If baby teeth are lost too early due to ECTD, permanent teeth may come in crooked and crowded.

How does ECTD happen?

  • Early childhood tooth decay happens when teeth are not being cleaned, and liquids other than water are left in the mouth on a frequent basis. When liquids stay on the teeth, the bacteria in the mouth can turn the sugar in the liquid into acid, which causes tooth decay.

How will I know if my child has this condition?

  • Lift your child’s lip once a month. Look at the gum line, if you see brown or white spots between and on the teeth there may be a problem, and your should take your child to a oral care professional.
  • The teeth most likely to be affected by early childhood tooth decay are the top front teeth.
  • You may not know there is a problem until serious damage has been done.

How can ECTD be prevented?

  • Before teeth appear, gently clean your baby’s mouth twice a day using a clean piece of gauze or the corner of a clean facecloth.
  • When baby teeth start to appear, use a small soft toothbrush to clean them. It is not necessary to use toothpaste before the age of three.
  • Avoid constant sipping from a bottle or ‘sippy’ cup. Do not put baby to bed with a bottle.
  • If your baby is using a pacifier, do not dip pacifier into honey, sugar, or any other sweet liquid. It is best to clean your baby’s pacifier by rinsing it under water.
  • Your child’s first dental visit should be around the age of one or if you notice there is a problem with their teeth.
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If your family has trouble paying for dental treatment we have financial assistance programs to help your kids aged 0 - 17 get dental care.

How do I apply for assistance?

Before booking an appointment with your oral health care provider, call the Halton Region Health Department to find out if you qualify. One of our Oral Health Team will help you through the process. Dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

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