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Healthy teeth are important. Between 6 months and 3 years, children get 20 baby teeth. Even though baby teeth fall out, they help your child eat healthy foods and learn to talk and smile normally. Start good dental care from birth so your baby’s gums are healthy and his first teeth do not have decay.


Prevent Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria and sugar in the mouth. To help prevent it, try to avoid sticky, chewy, high-sugar foods. Do not let your child carry around a bottle or sippy cup of milk, juice or sugary drinks between meals. Do not put her to bed with a bottle or food. And brush her teeth twice a day.


Treat Tooth Decay

Tooth decay causes pain and infections. It can lead to serious problems with eating, speaking, sleeping and learning. Take your child to the dentist if she:

  • Has brown or black spots on her teeth.
  • Has tooth pain.
  • Has a tooth injury or other dental problem.



Child at the dentistTake Care of Your Baby’s Teeth

  • Starting from birth, wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp cloth or gauze pad every day.
  • When your baby has his first tooth, start to brush 2 times a day with a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Increase to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when your child turns 3.
  • Ask your baby’s doctor about fluoride supplements or varnishes, starting at 6 months. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay, and your water may not have it.
  • The bacteria that cause tooth decay can spread from mouth to mouth. So do not pass food, toothbrushes, pacifiers or spoons from your mouth to your baby’s mouth.
  • You will need to help your children brush their teeth until they can do it themselves. This is usually not until ages 6 to 8.

Find a Dentist

  • To find a dentist for your child, talk to your own dentist. Or visit the Arizona Dental Association.
  • For low-cost dental care, check with local clinics and dental schools. Visit the Arizona Office of Oral Health.
  • For dental care for children with AHCCCS, contact AHCCCS or your child’s health plan.

When You Are Pregnant

  • You need to take extra care of your gums and teeth. Gum disease can cause your baby to be born too early and too small.
  • Keep your teeth clean. Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily between the teeth, close to the gums.
  • Try to see a dentist as soon as you are pregnant.
  • Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet so your baby develops strong teeth and bones. And take your daily prenatal vitamins.

The First Things First Parent Kit was developed in partnership with Health Research for Action/UC Berkeley. © 2018 The Regents of the University of California. Additional video, graphic and other content © 2018 First Things First. All rights reserved.

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