Tooth care for children

Caring for your baby's and child's teeth

Key points about tooth care for children

  • Dental care is free for all children in Aotearoa New Zealand to the age of 18.
  • Babies' teeth usually start appearing between 6–10 months.
  • Your child will have most of their baby teeth by age 2.
  • They will start to lose their baby teeth around the age of 6 and will have all their adult teeth by 14 years old.
  • Find out what to expect and how to care for their teeth at the different ages and stages.
Cute girl toddler brushing her teeth at the sink
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Watch this video to find out why your child's first teeth are important and how to care for them. Transcript available at the Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora website. (external link)

Video: Your Child: Healthy Teeth

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(Ministry of Health, NZ, 2015)

Teeth start forming in the womb and most babies are born with a full set of 20 baby teeth, usually hidden under their gums. 

Babies' teeth usually start to appear between 6 to 10 months, but some are born with teeth showing above the gums and some take longer.

It's important you take care of your baby's teeth as healthy baby teeth are needed for chewing and proper speech development.  

Find out more at KidsHealthNZ about caring for your baby's teeth, how to help a teething baby and watch videos about starting toothbrushing.(external link)

Your child will have most of their baby teeth by 2 years of age. Healthy baby teeth usually mean healthy adult teeth too, so it's important you look after your child's first teeth. 

Healthy teeth = a healthy smile. 

Preschool child showing healthy teeth


Image credit: Canva

Follow these 5 steps to protect your child's teeth: 

  1. Brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Read more about how to encourage tamariki to brush their teeth.
  2. Have regular dental check-ups. 
  3. Lift the lip every month to check for signs of tooth decay (holes). 
  4. Choose healthy snacks.
  5. Drink water or milk. 

Find out more on KidsHealth NZ about caring for the teeth of your child 1 to 5 years of age. Learn how to brush, which toothpaste to use, getting regular dental check-ups and watch videos with pre-school brushing tips(external link).

Your child will start to lose their primary or baby teeth around the age of 6 and will have all their adult teeth (except for wisdom teeth) by the age of 14.

Your child's baby teeth will usually fall out by themselves, and permanent teeth will start to come through. This is a natural process – your child’s jaw will grow during this time, to make room for the permanent teeth. 

Key things to know about losing baby teeth and new, permanent teeth:

  • The first tooth to fall out is usually in the front of the lower jaw.
  • Baby teeth will usually fall out by themselves. 
  • If a new tooth can be seen before the baby tooth comes out, encourage your child to wiggle the baby tooth – if it takes more than 2 months to fall out or if your child is in pain, contact your child's local oral health service.
  • The first permanent molars come through at the back of the mouth between the ages of 6 and 7 – they don't replace baby teeth. 
  • Your child's baby teeth will continue to fall out until they are about 12 years of age.

The teenage years

It's important your teenager looks after their teeth by brushing twice a day, eating healthy food, protecting their teeth while playing sports and having regular dental check-ups. 

Your child's dentist may recommend teeth straightening if they have crooked teeth or an abnormal bite.  

Find out more on KidsHealthNZ about caring for your child's teeth when they are 5 to 18 years of age. Read about how they can look after their teeth, about teeth straightening, orthodontic treatment and wisdom teeth(external link).

It's important to take good care of your child's teeth by brushing them twice a day and taking them for regular dental checkups.

In a series of videos on KidsHealth NZ, parents share their tips and tricks for successful toothbrushing sessions and helping tamariki overcome those toothbrushing challenges.(external link)

Tooth tips for babies(external link) Canterbury & Public Health, NZ
Caring for your baby's teeth(external link) Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora
It's easy to protect your family's smile(external link) HealthEd, NZ, 2022 Available in Cook Islands Māori(external link), te reo Māori(external link)Niuean(external link)Sāmoan(external link)Tokelauan(external link) and Tongan(external link).
To find out how to enrol your child in the free oral health service, call the free phone line 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583)
Healthy smile, healthy child(external link) Ministry of Health and NZDA, NZ, 2020
Switch to water(external link) New Zealand Dental Association, NZ
The New Zealand Dental Association(external link) See the resources section(external link) for other free, downloadable resources



Switch to water New Zealand Dental Association


Healthy smile, healthy child Ministry of Health and NZDA, NZ, 2020

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Credits: Content shared between HealthInfo Canterbury, KidsHealth NZ and Healthify He Puna Waiora as part of a National Health Content Hub Collaborative.

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