Good oral health (Babies)

Key health professionals who can provide this advice:

  • Midwives
  • Health visitors
  • Nursery nurses
  • Dental professionals

Key Messages:

  • Good oral health is important for good general health
  • In order to care for your child’s mouth, it is important to know how to care for your own mouth
  • A child’s first teeth (baby/ milk teeth) are just as important as the adult teeth - poor oral health can affect teeth and gums
  • Tooth decay can cause pain, infection, sleepless nights, time off nursery/school and time off work for parents/carers. Tooth decay is the main reason for hospital admissions in children aged 5 - 9 years. Small children often need a general anaesthetic to have decayed teeth removed, which can be an unpleasant experience and is not without risk
  • Baby teeth are important as they help to guide the adult teeth into the right position. If they are lost early, the spaces for the adult teeth can be lost, and teeth may come through crooked

What causes tooth decay?

  • Plaque bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar making acid which attacks teeth and causes tooth decay (holes).  It's not just about the amount of sugar in sweet food and drinks, but how long and how often the teeth are in contact with sugar that’s important. Tooth decay is painful and affects eating and sleeping
  • The safest drinks for teeth are milk and water
  • Breast milk provides the best nutrition for babies and is the only food or drink babies need for around the first six months of their life.  Formula milk is the only suitable alternative to breast milk
  • Breastfeeding up to 12 months is associated with a decreased risk of tooth decay

Moving onto solids

  • When your baby starts eating solid foods, encourage them to eat savoury food and keep drinks to milk and water. Check if there's sugar in pre-prepared baby foods (including the savoury ones).  Rusks and baby drinks are not needed as part of a healthy diet and should be avoided
  • Avoid giving your baby biscuits, sweets or dried fruit as these can cause tooth decay.  However, if you choose to give them, they should only be eaten at mealtimes. Milk and water are the safest drinks, but if you choose to give your baby juice, (as these contain high levels of sugar), dilute 1-part juice to 10 parts water, and only give it in a free flow cup at mealtimes
  • Move onto a free flow cup from about 6 months, that’s one where the milk or water drips out slowly when you tip it upside down (not a sippy cup as these still require baby to suck on them, like a bottle)

Sippy Cup.png

  • Try to move completely from a baby bottle to a free flow cup by the time baby is 12 months old.
  • Avoid any drinks containing sugar or sugar free as these still contain artificial sweeteners and some may contain acid that will damage teeth

To find out which foods and drinks are good to choose go to, click here

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