Dental health

Your baby’s first teeth usually come through at around 6 months of age, but this can vary greatly.

Start caring for your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear. If your child has too much sugar, they may have problems with their gums and teeth. The bacteria that grows on our teeth everyday turns sweet, sugary foods and drinks into acid which causes tooth decay and bleeding gums.

  • When the teeth come through the gum, your baby may be more upset than usual
  • You can massage the gums gently (without teething gel), or try chilled (not frozen) teething rings, a cold, clean face washer or pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Teething gels are not recommended as they be harmful  if too much is swallowed
  • There is not a lot of evidence that teething gels and amber bead necklaces work in reducing teething pain.

All children under 18 and who are eligible for Medicare can access public dental services for free in NSW.

Children aged 2 to 17 years can also get free dental checks under the Commonwealth’s Child Dental Benefits Schedule, if you receive certain payments from Centrelink. This program gives children and teenagers up to $1,000 for basic general dental services over 2 calendar years. More information can be found at: health.nsw.gov.au/oralhealth/Pages/child-dental-benefits-schedule.asp 

Brushing teeth

  • Brush teeth twice a day - after breakfast and before bed. Provide help at least once a day until children reach 8-10 years of age
  • Use a small toothbrush and a small amount of fluoridated, junior toothpaste for children over 18 months
  • If there is no toothbrush, rinse with water or wipe toothpaste on the teeth
  • If the bacteria have been on the teeth for a long time, the gums may bleed when brushed. This gingivitis tells you that the gums are unhealthy. To get them healthy again the gums need to be cleaned more often, even if they bleed when brushed.

To prevent decay and sore gums:

  • Only put breastmilk, formula or water in your baby’s bottle
  • Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle. Bacteria in the mouth can use sweet drinks (including milk and formula) to decay the teeth while your baby sleeps. If your baby needs a bottle to go to sleep, fill it with water only
  • Drink fluoridated tap water every day. If you are not sure if water in your area is fluoridated, check with your local council. Visit your dentist for advice if your water is not fluoridated
  • Try not to eat sugary, sticky foods and sweet drinks and juices, especially between meals
  • Don’t put honey or anything else on dummies to get your baby to sleep.

Your child should have check-ups every year from 1 year of age or more often if you notice any problems.

Watch for early signs of tooth decay (white or brown spots on teeth that don’t brush off). See a dentist if you have any concerns.