Close up of smiling baby

Looking after your baby's teeth

Your baby’s teeth are very important as they help them to eat, speak and smile!

Baby teeth are not as strong as adult teeth and are more likely to get tooth decay, so they need to be looked after.


Your baby’s first teeth will start to appear from about the age of 6 months, but before this they may show signs of teething. This can be very distressing for both baby and parents. 

Your teething baby may start to chew on things like their fingers and toys. You could use the following to sooth sore gums:

  • A teething ring which has been cooled in the fridge.
  • Healthy things such as vegetables and fruit if your baby is over 6 months.

Always watch your baby when they are eating as they could choke.

Avoid rusks and any foods that contain sugar as this can cause tooth decay, even if your baby only has a few teeth.

There is no evidence that teething gels, homeopathic powders or amber beads have any effect on relieving teething pain. But some teething gels do contain a mild local anaesthetic, speak to a pharmacist for further advice.

If your baby is in pain, sugar free pain relief can be given. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen can be given to your baby from 3 months or older.

Finding a dentist

If you do not have an NHS dentist the following will allow you to find a local dentist by entering your post code:

Dental Check By One

Visit your dentist twice a year with your baby when their teeth first come through, or by the age of one at the latest. This helps them get used to visiting a dentist regularly. 

Dental Check By One has more information. 

Ask your dentist about fluoride varnish applications. This involves painting a varnish that contains high levels of fluoride onto the surface of the tooth every 6 months to prevent decay. 


For healthy oral development it is best that you:

  • Introduce your baby to an open drinking cup from the age of 6 months. 
  • Stop using a bottle by the age of 1 year.
  • Avoid using a spouted cup. 
  • Avoid adding sugar to your baby’s food or drinks, this includes honey and other natural sweeteners.
  • Give your baby water and milk to drink.

Baby bottle decay

Baby bottle decay is a term used to describe the decay that develops when baby teeth have had frequent and prolonged contact with sugar. 

It can occur if your baby is allowed constant access to drinks other than water, such as:

  • If they're allowed to go to bed with a bottle
  • If a bottle is used as a pacifier and a habit has formed
  • When a bottle or sippy cup is used over a long period of time

Tooth decay will develop as the sugars in the drink, interact with the bacteria in the mouth. This causes acid and it is the acid which attacks the enamel resulting in tooth decay. 

Weaning and introducing solid foods

Baby boy with toothbrush in his mouth sitting in a small bathtub

It is important to wean your baby with food that is nutritious and does not contain sugar or salt.

Be aware of baby foods such as rusks and baby rice as they often contain added sugar.

Other shop bought baby foods also contain a high level of natural free sugars, which can damage teeth.

NHS Start For Life covers weaning in more detail and there's more information on diet in our healthy eating pages. 


It is important to brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth.

The earlier good dental habits are formed, the easier they are to maintain. Sticking to these simple steps will ensure your baby’s teeth grow strong and stay healthy: 

  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks between meals and within one hour of bedtime.
  • Brush your baby’s teeth for two minutes.
  • Brush before bed and at one other time during the day. 
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing teeth.
  • Use children's fluoride toothpaste containing no less than 1,000ppm of fluoride (look for this on the ingredients of the packaging).
  • Use only a smear of toothpaste if your child is under 3 years.
  • Always supervise your child when cleaning their teeth.
  • Encourage your child to Spit the toothpaste out but don’t rinse after brushing. 
  • Children up to the age of 7 do not have the manual dexterity to brush their teeth effectively, so they need help and guidance from an adult.

See also the NHS video How do I brush my child's teeth?

Last updated on 27 March 2024