Taking Care of Your Baby’s Teeth: Dentistry for Individuals with Disabilities

Provided by: Consumer Caucus of the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council

What is Oral Health Care?

Oral health care means taking care of your mouth, including your teeth, gums, and jaws. To have a healthy mouth means brushing 2 or 3 times a day, flossing once a day and visiting a dentist every 3 to 4 months. Healthy teeth are very important for your overall good health and good for your baby too. In this pamphlet, there is information to help you take care of your baby’s teeth.

What should I know about my baby’s teeth?

Taking care of your baby’s teeth is very important. Baby teeth start to come in when a baby is 3 to 6 months old. Many babies and children have teething pain when their teeth are coming in. Give your baby something clean to chew on that won’t cause choking. By age 3, children have 20 teeth. Baby teeth will fall out when your child is about 6 years old. By the age of 6, many children can brush by themselves.

How do I keep my baby’s teeth clean and healthy?

Your baby’s teeth should be cleaned after every meal. You can use a soft damp cloth to wipe clean your baby’s mouth and teeth. Brush your baby’s teeth with water on a toothbrush when you first see teeth. Take your baby to the dentist before their first birthday. When your baby is 2 years old, it is okay to use a pea-sized spot of toothpaste on his toothbrush, as long as he or she does not swallow the toothpaste. Teach your child to spit by saying “patooey.” Help the child aim for the sink. Begin flossing to clean between teeth as soon as 2 teeth come in next to each other.

How do I get my child to brush his or her teeth?

Sometimes, children do not like to brush their teeth. Here are a few ways to get them to brush. Get their own special step stool so they can watch themselves in the bathroom mirror. Get their own rinse cups with their favorite cartoon on the side. Let them choose their own soft-bristled toothbrush with a favorite character on the handle. Brush your teeth at the same time your child does. If you have more than one child, have them all brush together. Sing a special tooth-brushing song together. Give your child praise and admire his smile. Read books together about teeth and tooth-brushing.

What should I feed my baby to make healthy and strong teeth?

Some foods for babies are better than others. Some good foods to feed your baby are:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables

They help make babies’ teeth healthy and strong.

Foods that are bad for your baby’s teeth are sugary foods such as:

  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Crackers

These foods can cause tooth decay.

Are there other causes of tooth decay in babies?

Babies get baby bottle tooth decay when they are put to bed with a bottle or use a bottle between meals. Teach your baby to drink from a regular cup as soon as possible to prevent baby bottle tooth decay. You can also pass bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth if you share spoons or cups. Give your baby a bottle only at meal times, or fill the bottle with water.



American Dental Association. (2002). Baby’s First teeth. JADA,133, p. 255. Retrieved January 2, 2008, from.

American Academy of Pediatrics. Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. (2000). Retrieved February 25, 2008.

American Dental Association. Early childhood tooth decay (baby bottle tooth decay). Retrieved June 17, 2008.

Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). (2004). Guide to Children’s Dental
Care in Medicaid
. Retrieved August 26, 2008.

The New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (NYSDDPC) distributes this information in good faith that it is accurate and current. It should not be considered complete or exhaustive, nor does it cover all conditions and disorders, and their treatment and other oral health-related issues. You should not use this pamphlet as a means of diagnosing oral health conditions or as a means of determining treatment. The information in this pamphlet is designed to inform you about oral health care. It is not intended to be a replacement for information provided by your dentist and doctor. This information should not be used in place of a phone call to your doctor or dentist. In the event of an emergency, please contact your doctor or dentist right away or call 911.

Find Support

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Visit the My Child Without Limits support community and talk to fellow parents, caregivers, and experts about their experiences with the treatments and therapies in this section.


National Maternal and Child Health Oral Health Resource Center 

DC Health Resources Partnership, Oral Health (focuses on individuals 
with Developmental Disabilities)

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research at NIH: 
Developmental Disabilities and Oral Health