Is it true that during pregnancy the baby takes calcium from the mother’s teeth?

No. During pregnancy, calcium cannot be released from the mother’s teeth for the baby because calcium already present in teeth is “locked in”.  The baby’s main source of calcium is from the mother’s diet so pregnant mothers need extra calcium in their diet to provide for both theirs and their baby’s calcium needs. Milk, yogurt and cheese are important sources of calcium and women who are pregnant or breast feeding should have 5 servings of pasteurised and preferably low fat dairy a day.  Maintaining a well-balanced and healthy diet during pregnancy is important for the well-being of both mother and baby.  For further information on nutrition during pregnancy visit safefood at


When do the first teeth start to come up?

The first set of teeth (baby teeth) start to come up at around 6 months of age, but every child is different, and the first baby teeth can appear any time between 4 and 12 months of age. The rest of the teeth come down in “batches” at around 12–16 month ,  18–20 months and 20–30 months.  So your child will be teething, on and off, for the first 3 years of their life!


What are the signs my baby is teething?

Your baby may:

  • Have red, flushed cheeks 
  • Dribble a lot
  • Chew on their fists or on toys more than usual
  • Have sore and tender gums
  • Be eating less
  • Have nappy rash
  • Be generally out of sorts

Usually, the first few teeth to come up cause the most discomfort. As your child gets older, teething gets easier. But remember, the last baby teeth won’t be up until about age 2½ , so if your toddler seems out of sorts, have a look in their mouth because they could be teething! 


How can I help my baby cope with teething?

Teething is a milestone in your child’s development and, like any milestone, your baby needs lots of support and comfort from you to get through it, particularly for those first few teeth.

  • A cool, clean teething ring is great for your baby to chew on and can help sooth your baby’s gums .
  • Keep a spare clean teething ring in the fridge (never in the freezer).
  • If you don’t have a teething ring, just massaging your baby’s gums with a clean finger will help soothe a sore mouth.

Gently wipe the drool from around your baby’s face and from under their chin and the folds in their neck as often as you can – this is to prevent a rash developing. If your child’s skin does become irritated, use a neutral barrier cream such as petroleum jelly.

  • If your baby is over 4 months of age, you can massage a tiny amount of sugar-free teething gel onto the gums.  Ask your dentist, doctor or pharmacist for advice before using teething gel. Always use teething gel very sparingly and follow the instructions on the pack for how often it can be used.
  •  Never use mouth ulcer gel for adults: this can be harmful to babies and young children. 


How many baby teeth are there?

There are 20 baby teeth in total: 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom.  Your child should have all 20 teeth before age 3.  



In what order do the baby teeth appear?

The first baby teeth to appear are the bottom front teeth at around 6 months of age, followed by the top front teeth. The back teeth are the last to appear at about age 2 ½.   The first baby teeth to appear are the bottom front teeth at around 6 months of age, followed by the top front teeth. The back teeth are the last to appear at about age 2 ½.

There is wide variation when teething starts and when teeth erupt. The order of appearance shown above is general so don’t fret if you child’s teeth appear in a slightly different pattern or timing!


When do the baby teeth fall out?

Your child will start losing baby teeth at around age 6. Your child will continue to shed baby teeth over the next 6 or 7 years (age 12 or 13) until all 20 baby teeth have been replaced by adult teeth. 

Baby teeth fall out more or less in the same order that they come in – front teeth first, usually starting with the ones on the bottom, and back teeth last. 


Baby teeth fall out anyway, so does it really matter if they get a bit of decay?

Children with decay in their baby teeth are much more likely to have decay in their permanent teeth so yes, it is important to help your child keep their baby teeth healthy.

Teeth are important for eating, speech, appearance and one’s self-confidence.  Decay in baby teeth not only impacts on these important basic functions but also can cause your child unnecessary pain and lead to infection. Treating very young children for dental decay can be difficult: your child may need to be brought to hospital and put under a general anaesthetic – a procedure that is not risk free – for dental treatment.

The back baby teeth (molars) come in at about age 21/2  and don’t fall out until age 12 or 13 – a period of some 10 years. Of all the teeth in the baby set, these molars are the ones that most often go bad, so keeping them healthy right from the start is really important. What starts as a bit of decay can over time end up being a lot of decay and the tooth must be extracted. Baby teeth act as space holders for the permanent teeth which are developing in the gums underneath them. If your child’s tooth has to be extracted before its permanent successor is ready to erupt, then the space available for the permanent tooth can be reduced, resulting in crowding and misalignment of the tooth. Good habits learnt early can help prevent this.


Baby teeth act as space holders for the permanent teeth which are developing underneath them.


Are bad teeth hereditary? My father had terrible teeth and I’ve had a lot of trouble too. Will my child be the same?

It may appear that bad teeth run in families because dietary and oral hygiene habits which promote bad teeth get passed from parents to children. Parents with bad teeth may also transmit harmful bacteria from their mouths to their children (e.g., by using their saliva to clean soothers, when kissing their babies, by feeding children from their plate with the same utensils). Regardless of genetic factors,  bad teeth can be avoided with good eating and oral hygiene habits Because parents have bad teeth does not mean that their children should suffer bad teeth. Tooth decay occurs when harmful bacteria in the mouth form acids that eat away at the tooth – a process called demineralisation. Tooth decay can be prevented by avoiding sugary snacks and drinks between meals to reduce the amount of time teeth are demineralising, brushing at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste after age 2 and going for regular dental check-ups. ‌


When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?

It is never too early to start cleaning your child’s mouth. You can use a soft toothbrush or washcloth to gently clean your baby’s gums even before the first tooth appears. Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears – usually at about 6 months. Brush your baby’s teeth daily using a soft brush and only water. Only begin using toothpaste when your child turns 2 and be sure to use just a small pea-size amount of toothpaste containing at least 1,000 ppm fluoride.


I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to use toothpaste until your child is 2, but I can buy toothpaste for age 0–2 in the supermarket. What’s that all about?

A child under 2 years may swallow most or all of the toothpaste used when brushing. For this reason, brushing with toothpaste should only begin when the child is able to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. In response to concerns about children ingesting excess fluoride when brushing, manufacturers now produce low fluoride toothpaste for children with as low as 250 ppm fluoride. However, the effectiveness of these low fluoride toothpastes at preventing tooth decay is not proven and the recommendation remains to use a small pea-size amount of toothpaste containing at least 1,000 ppm fluoride starting from when your child turns 2.


What’s the best toothpaste to use for my child?

‌The best toothpaste to use for your child is toothpaste that contains at least 1,000 ppm fluoride.  There are many types of toothpaste on the market so do read the labels and check the fine print to make sure there is at least 1,000 ppm fluoride in whichever brand you choose.


How much toothpaste should I use?‌

Use no more than a small pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. 

Encourage your child to just spit out the toothpaste after brushing and not use water to rinse. Rinsing with water washes away the fluoride which helps to prevent tooth decay. And remember, it takes about 2 minutes to properly brush all surfaces of all teeth.


When should I take my child for their first dental visit?

You should bring your child for their first dental visit before all their primary teeth have erupted, ideally before age 2 and even as early as 6 months. The first visit is usually a quick check-up to see that the teeth are developing properly and to answer any questions you may have regarding the care of your child’s teeth.  It is important that your child’s first visit to the dentist happens in a friendly and non-threatening manner. If you leave the first visit until your child has a problem with their teeth, they may associate dental visits with a bad experience and end up fearful of dentists.


When can my child start brushing his own teeth?

Young children will want to start brushing their teeth earlier than they are able to do so properly. There is no harm in letting your child try to brush their own teeth but please remember that before age 7 children will not have developed the manual dexterity to reach and properly brush the back teeth which are the ones most likely to go bad. It is therefore very important for parents to continue supervising their child’s toothbrushing until age 7 at the very least. 


What are the sneaky six year old molars?

Around the time that the new adult front teeth are coming up – usually when your child is about 6 years of age – the first adult back teeth (molars) are also starting to come through the gum right at the very back of the mouth, behind the last baby tooth. Nothing falls out to make way for these new molars, so they sneak in without being noticed. These sneaky teeth are often called the ‘six year old molars’ or in dental lingo the ‘sixes’ (as they are the sixth teeth from the front). Because the sixes sneak into the mouth,  they often don’t get brushed properly, and that is why the sneaky sixes are the most likely adult tooth to go bad.  One child in 5 in Ireland already has decay in a sneaky six by the time they are 8 years old. 

There are 3 ways that you can help to keep your child’s sneaky sixes healthy:

  1. When the front baby teeth start to get loose, take a look at the back of your child’s mouth to see if there is any sign of the sneaky sixes. They’re big, so if they’re there, you can’t miss them!  You can help your child to brush these sneaky teeth by gently placing the head of the brush on the new back tooth and brushing forwards.  Repeat this a few times until you and your child get a feel for how far back the brush needs to go.
  2. Limit sweet food and drinks to mealtimes.
  3. When the sneaky sixes are erupted, have your dentist apply a fissure sealant to them.


What are fissure sealants?

Fissure sealant is a thin plastic coating painted by a dentist onto the grooves (fissures) of the adult molar teeth at the back of the mouth to protect them from going bad.  Fissure sealants can also be used on baby molar teeth.  Fissure sealants only protect the grooves of the teeth, so it is still important to look after the rest of the tooth by brushing carefully with toothpaste that contains fluoride and limiting sweet foods and drinks to meal times.


My child is two and still uses a soother (dummy). Is this a problem? 

Infants are born with a natural sucking urge which soothers can help to satisfy. Ideally, infants should be weaned from soothers before they are old enough to object. If your child is already a toddler and still uses a soother, this is not to satisfy a sucking urge but because the soother provides your child with a feeling of security and comfort. You should take heed not to cause too much distress when trying to wean your child from the soother. Perhaps start by limiting use of the soother to bedtime only or get your child to agree to donate the soother to the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, another baby. ‌

Constant use of a soother beyond infancy can increase the risk of middle ear infections. Speech may also be hindered as your child will not be able to talk clearly with a dummy in their mouth. Use of a soother beyond age 4 can affect the alignment of the adult teeth which are developing under the baby teeth and the habit should definitely be stopped by the time the front baby teeth become loose!  


The nurse says my child should be drinking from a cup now (he’s 14 months) but he loves his bottle and cries when I try to get him to use a sippy cup. What harm is it to continue with the bottle?

Most babies will have developed the motor skills to drink from a cup by 9 months old and should be completely weaned from their bottles by 14 months old.

Toddlers who are allowed to constantly sip milk or juices or sweetened drinks from a bottle or even a sippy cup are susceptible to “bottle rot” tooth decay. Milk and juices contain natural sugars and every time your child takes a sip, the acids from these sugars combine with bacteria in the mouth to attack the teeth for 20 minutes. The best way to avoid bottle rot or nursing bottle caries is to encourage your child to finish his drink – whether from a bottle or a sippy cup – in one sitting and to use a toothbrush or washcloth to wipe the teeth clean afterwards.Never allow your toddler to fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup in his mouth! Encourage your child to use a normal cup for drinking as early as possible.


My son will be 12 months soon and I’m trying to get him to drink from a cup.  What’s the best type of cup to use?

There are many types of sippy cups on the market. Some babies may prefer to drink from a cup with a straw than from a sippy cup with a spouted lid, or may prefer a soft spout to a hard spout, or may prefer a cup with no valves to a cup with valves. Experiment with what your baby will accept but do remember that the objective is not to replace the bottle with a sippy cup but to help your child learn how to drink from a normal cup.

My child is a fussy eater, so I’m happy if he eats anything at all. Like all children, he’ll go for the sweet stuff over anything else.  What can I do? 

Tempt your child with the sweeter tasting vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and squash and with fruits that are ripe, sweet and juicy. Avoid bitter or sour tasting fruits and vegetables until your child’s taste buds have matured.

Children need to eat every three to four hours – plan ahead with healthy options so your child does not end up famished and cranky. Make up fruit cups or little bags of cut up fruits and vegetable and place them on a child-accessible shelf in the fridge that they can raid when hungry.

Have fewer junk foods around and make sure that the healthy option you offer your child actually tastes good!!!

Involve your child in food shopping and food preparation. Let your child pick out fruit and vegetables, smell the produce, admire the colours. Allow your child to help with the cutting, mixing and cooking of different dishes. Your child will be more interested in eating something he helped to prepare.

Introduce new foods slowly. Don’t force them to eat everything on their plate, allow them to pick and choose what they like. It is important to keep them interested in trying out new things. Be patient, over time they may learn to eat the foods they initially reject.

Sit down together and enjoy meals as a family. Be a good role model. Children often take on the eating habits of their parents and what is learned in childhood will stay with them as adults.

Make healthy foods interesting to your child. Use cute names for vegetables – e.g.  “hero buttons” for brussel sprouts to entice them to try them.

For more info see:


I’m really careful about what my child eats and he still got decay.  I feel really frustrated and disappointed. How could this happen?

There are a number of reasons why, even though you are careful about what your child eats, that he still gets decay.  These reasons are linked to what foods your child eats, how often your child eats during the day, and whether your child uses fluoride or not.

Tooth decay occurs when the teeth are constantly exposed to an acidic environment. An acidic environment is produced by harmful bacteria in the mouth whenever we eat foods containing sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates. Many processed foods may contain hidden sugars (e.g.  fructose, molasses, treacle, glucose syrup, maltodextrins, honey) so it is really important to check and understand food and drink labels (for more information see Other fermentable carbohydrates are foods which turn into simple sugars in the mouth and include starchy foods like potatoes, refined wheat flour, yams, rice, pasta, pretzels, bread, corn and some fresh fruits like bananas and dried fruits like raisins.

While saliva has the ability to reverse the acidity of the mouth and helps to prevent tooth decay, it needs time to do so and the more often your child snacks on sweet foods/drinks and other fermentable carbohydrates throughout the day, the less able his saliva will be to fight tooth decay. It is thus important to avoid constant snacking on foods/drinks containing sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates.

Finally, the use of fluoride is the single most important universal weapon against tooth decay. Brushing the teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will help your child’s saliva fight tooth decay.

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