Caring for your baby's teeth

In New Zealand, tooth decay is a significant problem, with almost half our children having cavities by the time they reach five years of age. Your baby will start getting their first teeth at around 6 months. Find out how you can look after them.

5 steps to protect your baby's smile

Healthy teeth = a healthy smile.

Follow these 5 steps to protect your baby's smile:

  1. Brush teeth twice a day.
  2. Use fluoride toothpaste.
  3. Have regular dental check-ups.
  4. Lift the lip every month to check for signs of tooth decay (holes).
  5. Choose healthy foods and drinks.

Brush teeth twice a day

Your baby will start getting their first teeth at around 6 months. These first teeth will help your baby to eat and speak well. Healthy baby teeth usually mean healthy adult teeth too, so it's important that you look after your baby's first teeth.

As soon as your baby's teeth start to show, start brushing. Use a small, soft brush and a smear of regular-strength fluoride toothpaste twice a day. One brushing should be at night before your baby goes to bed.

Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride makes teeth stronger and reduces tooth decay (holes). Use a 1000 parts per million (ppm) regular-strength fluoride toothpaste for your baby's teeth.

Regular dental check-ups

Your baby is eligible for free check-ups from an oral health service. It's important to enrol your child with the service as early as possible, so that you can arrange the first check-up.

Regular check-ups increase the chances of finding and treating any tooth decay early. To enrol your baby with a service or to make an appointment, phone 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583).

Lift the lip every month

Gently lift your baby's top lip once a month to check inside their mouth. It’s a quick and easy way to see if tooth decay is present. Look out for spots or stains on your child’s teeth. You can read about tooth decay and what to look for on the Plunket website.

If you notice any discolouration or are worried about your baby's teeth, talk with your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse at the next visit, or with your doctor, or contact your Community Oral Health Service.

Choose healthy foods and drinks

Your baby may be ready to start eating solid food at around 6 months of age. To protect your baby's teeth, choose healthy foods and drinks. Sweet drinks, foods and fruit juices can cause tooth decay and cause your baby to develop a taste for sweet foods. Find out more about starting your baby on solid food.

Don't put your baby to bed with a bottle. Going to sleep with a bottle of milk, a warm chocolate drink or juice will start to cause tooth decay. If they want to suck on something to settle themselves, it's better to use a pacifier/dummy.


Content courtesy of KidsHealth NZ which has been created by a partnership between the Paediatric Society of New Zealand (PSNZ) and the Starship Foundation, supported and funded by the Ministry of Health.

Credits: KidsHealth NZ. Reviewed By: Health Navigator Editorial Team Last reviewed: 15 Dec 2020