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  • Writer's pictureCassandra Hyland

Dental Care for Children

Updated: Apr 28

Tooth decay in children is on the rise in Australia, with children aged 5 to 10 having an average of one and a half decayed, missing or filled baby teeth. So, it’s more important than ever to teach your child good oral health habits that will stay with them for life.

Caring for children's teeth is important

It is important to look after your child’s teeth from the moment they start teething. Keeping your child’s teeth and gums clean will protect against infection, cavities and pain. Decayed baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth underneath. If a child loses a tooth because of decay, it can cause crowding problems when their adult teeth come through later.

Teeth development

Baby teeth can arrive in any order, although the central bottom teeth are often first. Most children have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they’re three years old. The 32 adult teeth replace the baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 20 years.

Tips to keep your child's teeth clean

• Brush your child's teeth twice a day, using small circular motions. Their teeth should be cleaned after eating and before bed using toothpaste with fluoride that is suitable for children. This can help to strengthen the outside of the teeth and prevent decay. Make sure they brush for at least 2 minutes and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.

• Help your child to brush their teeth from the time they get their first tooth until they are 7 or 8. After that, supervising them is still important.

• Try to get into a regular tooth brushing routine, and give your child plenty of praise when they brush their teeth well. Replace toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every 3 months.

• Children should floss as soon as they have 2 teeth that are in contact with each other. You should supervise flossing until they are about 10.

• To develop strong teeth, make sure your child eats a healthy, balanced diet and avoids foods with a lot of added sugar, such as lollies, biscuits and soft drinks. Always choose fluoridated tap water.


It’s important to choose the right toothbrush – one designed specifically for your child’s age. These toothbrushes have small oval heads, soft bristles of different heights and non-slip, cushioned handles. They also often have cartoons and fun designs on the handle, which your child might like. The novelty of electric toothbrushes might also appeal to your child. Some electric toothbrushes can give a slightly better clean than manual brushes, but it’s best to go with what your child prefers.

Keeping toothbrushes clean

After cleaning your child’s teeth and gums, rinse the toothbrush with tap water. Store the toothbrush upright in an open container to allow it to air-dry. You should replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, or when the bristles get worn or frayed.

Visiting the dentist

Regular check-ups - Regular dental check-ups are important from the age of 1, or within 6 months of the first tooth appearing. Always make a visit to the dentist a positive experience. Never use the dentist as a threat for not brushing teeth or other behaviour.

Corrective treatment - As your child's adult teeth grow through, make an appointment with the dentist if you notice any misalignment of the teeth or jaw. They will advise whether corrective treatment is required.

When to seek further help- See the dentist if your child develops any of the following: bleeding, red or swollen gums, pus coming from the gums, a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go away, loose teeth (this can be caused by infected gums), abscesses (these can be under the teeth and will usually be very painful).

Tips: Children are more likely to go along with cleaning teeth if it’s fun and part of a daily routine. For example, you can sing ‘This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth, so early in the morning’ while you’re brushing. Or you could pretend the toothbrush is a train, saying ‘Toot toot chugga chugga’ as you move it around your child’s teeth. Say you have to clean of the fairy dust or cheetah spots is also a good way to distract them.

Source: Healthdirect (2019, December). Dental care for children Retrieved from (2019, July). Dental care for Preschoolers Retrieved from

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