Baby's Teeth and Gums
Children should start having their teeth checked by a dentist or doctor by the first birthday.
How Should I Take Care of My Baby's Gums and Teeth?
Wipe gums daily - beginning at birth wipe gums with a clean, damp cloth.
Teething – offer your baby a cold, firm, safe teething object – a teething ring or slightly frozen washcloth – or rub gums with a clean finger.
Tooth brushing – start as soon as you see the first tooth (usually around 6 months). Use a small soft toothbrush or clean damp cloth at least twice a day and always at bedtime.
Toothpaste – starting at age two, use a rice size amount of toothpaste with fluoride when you brush. You should brush your child's teeth until age 6 to 7 (when they have the muscle control to write in cursive or tie their shoes). Children can practice with a toothbrush before or after you brush.
Avoid Germs – Parents can also pass germs to their baby by sharing cups, spoons or tasting their child's food. Avoid sharing spoons and toothbrushes with your child or cleaning a dropped pacifier in your mouth. Parents should also have good oral health and visit a dentist at least once a year.
Use a training (sippy) cup – use with water only (no milk, formula or juice) unless it is a mealtime. Discourage frequent or prolonged use of a sippy cup.
Bottles – If you give your baby a bottle at bedtime or naps, fill it with water. Juice and other liquids can pool in your baby's mouth while he/she sleeps and cause decay.
When Should My Baby's Teeth be Checked?
Experts recommend that children should start having their teeth checked by a dentist or doctor by the first birthday. Early care will help prevent dental disease and protect your child’s health.
Check your baby’s teeth often yourself. Lift or gently push baby’s lip out of the way and look for white or brown spots on the teeth or changes in the gums. Talk with your baby’s doctor or dentist if you notice any problems.
How Can I Find Free and Low-cost Dental Insurance?
Dental care is included in Apple Health for Kids the state-sponsored insurance program for children. Washington’s Apple Health for Kids is free or low-cost health insurance that provides medical, dental, vision, mental health and prescription benefits to children under age 19. If your child is eligible for Apple Health for Kids and is between birth and 6th birthday, they can also be enrolled in Washington’s ABCD program. Call the Family Health Hotline (800-322-2588) to learn if your children qualify. Learn more about Apple Health for Kids and ABCD.
- Washington Dental Service Foundation Factsheet
- Download Taking Care of Your Child’s Baby Teeth brochure
Find Dental Care for Your Child and Family
- Department of Health: Dental Resources
- Washington Dental Service Foundation: Dental Resources in your Community (PDF)