Teeth - dental care for children
teeth; tooth; decay; caries; cleaning; brushing; toothbrush; brush; paste; toothpaste; milk; juice; bottle; smoking; fluoride; injury; knocked; out;
Tooth decay is preventable. How you look after your child's teeth from the time they are babies will make a difference to how they grow and how healthy they are.
Teeth are some of your children's most important possessions. How you look after their teeth from the time they are babies will make a difference to how they grow and how healthy they are. This means not only how you clean them but also how you protect them from things that can harm teeth. Tooth decay is preventable.
There are several other topics on this site about teeth and teeth care:
There is a simpler version of this information in a pamphlet developed by the South Australian Dental Service
- Do not give your baby or young child a bottle of formula, milk or fruit juice to go to sleep with, or to suck on for a long time during the day. The sugar in milk and fruit juice can lead to decay if it is in the baby's mouth for a lot of time. Plain tap water is best for babies after 6 months of age.
- Don't leave the bottle in your baby's mouth while baby is asleep.
- Babies should stop using a bottle by the time they are 1year old.
- Babies who breastfeed continuously or frequently at night after they have cut some teeth can also have sugars staying in their mouth for a long time and may develop tooth decay. Detach your baby from the nipple when the feed is finished. When babies are breastfed during the day less milk stays in the mouth compared to bottle fed babies, so the risk of dental decay is less.
- Healthy snacks and drinks are important for children. Try to keep away from too much sugar, especially between meals.
- Babies get the germs that cause tooth decay from other people, especially those who kiss them a lot. If the adults have clean and healthy teeth, a baby is more likely to have healthy teeth. Kissing and touching babies is important and should not be stopped!
- It has been shown that young children exposed to passive smoking have more dental decay than other children.
- Don't put anything sweet on a baby's dummy.
- Lift your child's top lip once a month to look for early signs of tooth decay. Early signs of tooth decay look like white chalky lines near the gum line or brown spots. This is shown on the South Australian Dental Service poster 'Lift the lip'.
- Start cleaning your baby's teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth. Clean the teeth with a small, soft toothbrush.
- Brush the teeth twice a day - after breakfast and last thing before going to sleep at night.
- Parents need to supervise the use of toothpaste and tooth brushing by their young children. Children do not have the skills needed to fully clean their own teeth until they are 8 to 9 years old.
- You need to put the toothpaste on yourself until the children can do it properly.
- Fluoride is found naturally in food and water and is added to most water supplies and many oral care products such as mouth rinse and toothpastes.
- Using fluoride toothpaste twice a day is a very effective way of reducing tooth decay.
- Teach children to spit out the toothpaste after using fluoride toothpaste.
- Don't swallow. Swallowing the toothpaste may cause them to get too much fluoride.
- Don't rinse. Fluoride can go on protecting the teeth for some time after brushing if the toothpaste is not rinsed out of the mouth.
Children under 18 months of age
- Children aged 0 to 17 months do not need toothpaste.
- Generally young children receive enough fluoride to benefit their teeth through food and water.
- From birth to 18 months of age the permanent front teeth are developing, and if children swallow fluoride toothpaste they may get white flecks (fluorosis) on their permanent adult teeth. To avoid this, fluoride toothpaste should not be used when brushing the teeth and should be kept out of children's reach.
- If you live in an area which does not have fluoridated water, ask your dental professional for advice.
Children 18 months - 5 years of age
- Children aged 18 months to 5 years - use a low fluoride toothpaste.
- Research shows that young children swallow a lot of toothpaste when brushing their teeth. Therefore, it is recommended that they use a low-fluoride toothpaste such as Colgate 'my first toothpaste'**, Macleans 'milk teeth'** or Oral B children's toothpaste**.
- Use a pea size amount of low-fluoride toothpaste twice a day, in the morning and last thing before bed at night.
- Toothpaste tubes should be kept out of children's reach, and toothpaste put on the brush by an adult to avoid accidental swallowing of large amounts.
Children 6 - 18 years and adults
- For children aged 6 years and over use a pea size amount of adult toothpaste.
- Choose a fluoride toothpaste that suits your taste and budget. General guidelines for using fluoride toothpaste are:
- use twice a day, in the morning and before bed at night
- spit the toothpaste out - do not rinse your mouth after brushing
- don't eat or swallow toothpaste
- follow advice given by your dental professional.
- Ask your dental professional about your child's fluoride toothpaste needs.
- Use a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles.
- Clean the teeth, gums and tongue every morning and night.
- Every person should have their own toothbrush and should not use anybody else's toothbrush.
- Store toothbrushes in a clean, dry, airy place so that they can dry out between use (you may need two brushes per person, used alternately). Store toothbrushes separately so they do not touch other toothbrushes.
- After brushing the teeth, the toothbrush should be rinsed thoroughly under fast running water to remove toothpaste, bits of food, and plaque. Then shake off the water from the toothbrush to help with drying.
- Replace toothbrushes regularly and when they become 'shaggy' or clogged with toothpaste.
- Also replace toothbrushes after illness such as colds and flu or after mouth infections.
- Follow personal hygiene practices, such as washing hands after going to the toilet and washing the toothbrush if it falls on the floor or in the hand basin.
- Fluoride acts both before and after teeth come through to prevent tooth decay.
- Its main action is on the surface of the teeth after teeth come through. It makes them more able to resist decay. It is a normal and important part of human tooth enamel
Fluoride is found naturally in the earth and in water in most parts of the world - but in many places in Australia there is very little fluoride in the water. There has been a lot of scientific research about possible health effects of fluoride. There are no health problems caused by having the amounts of fluoride that can be got from fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste.
Tap water and toothpaste which contains fluoride (for children over 18 months) are the best sources of fluoride. Bottled water does not contain fluoride and is not the best water for children and adults.
For more information have a look at this pamphlet prepared by the South Australian Dental Service
When children or adults fall or have a blow to the face sometimes one of their teeth is knocked out.
- With quick action a permanent tooth that has been knocked out can often be saved.
- Baby (deciduous) teeth should not be put back.
Any injury which was bad enough to knock a tooth out may have also cracked the bone around the tooth. It is important to see a dentist, even when the tooth is a baby tooth, so this can be checked.
For more information:
Better Health Channel
- All children should have an oral health check by the age of 2.
Children aged up to 18 years are eligible to attend the School Dental Service. Dental care is free for all toddlers and preschoolers at the School Dental Service. To find your local clinic, visit SA Dental Services.
Books for parents
- Pamphlet 'Zero to Six' obtainable from the South Australian Dental Service and Child and Family Health Centres.
Oral Health resources
- SA Dental Services - Oral health resources to download
Raising Children Network topics
-known brands readily available in Australia. The brand names are given as examples only, and do not necessarily represent the best products, nor the full range of effective products on the market.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.