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HealthInfo Canterbury

Looking after teeth & gums (babies and children)

Your children’s teeth are at risk of decay as soon as they appear. There are some important things you can do to look after your child’s teeth.

Breastfeeding is the best thing for babies health and their developing teeth. If you're using a bottle to feed it should only contain formula for babies, expressed breast milk, and water when they're a little older. Don't put any fruit juices or sweetened drinks in their bottle or sippy cup.

When your baby moves onto solids, avoid sugar as much as possible in their diet.

You should start brushing as soon as the first baby tooth comes through the gums – usually around 6 months of age. Use a soft-headed brush that's small enough to fit into their mouth. You only need a small smear of a fluoride toothpaste. If you live in an area that doesn't have fluoridated water, you should use a toothpaste designed for older children, such as 6+, to make sure they get enough fluoride to protect their teeth.

Dental care for children is free in New Zealand up to 18 years of age. Make sure that your child is signed up with the community dental service so that they can start having regular dental checks from an early age.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed October 2018.

Page reference: 75088

Review key: HIOHB-48008