Dental health for children
Helping your kids develop healthy habits can help prevent tooth decay and protect their teeth for life.
Having healthy baby teeth is important
This will help your baby with:
- eating, biting, chewing and grinding foods
- learning to speak
- having the right space for adult teeth to grow
- developing jaw and mouth muscles.
Caring for your child’s mouth, teeth and gums
- Your child will grow teeth at different ages. They may still have their back baby molar teeth at age 11-12.
- Start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to get teeth.
- You will need to help your children to brush their teeth until 7–8 years of age.
How to clean your child’s teeth
A healthy mouth is important for the whole family. Be a role model for your children by brushing your teeth morning and night.
- Every family member must have their own toothbrush.
- Help your child to brush their teeth until 7–8 years of age.
- Don’t encourage thumb and finger sucking. After age four, this can affect the position of your child’s teeth and their speech.
What to use
- Use a small, soft toothbrush to help your child to brush their teeth morning and night.
- Use water only until your baby is 17 months. Do not use toothpaste.
- Use a pea-sized amount of low fluoride children’s toothpaste between 18 months and five years.
- Use a pea-sized amount of adult fluoride toothpaste when your child turns five.
How to clean
- Start with a damp soft cloth to gently wipe the gums and teeth if your baby’s teeth have just started to come through.
- Sit your child either on your lap facing away or sideways to you or stand behind them.
- Tilt your child’s head back against your body so you can see all the surfaces of the teeth.
- Brush in gentle circles on the inside and outside surfaces of the teeth and gums.
- Use a light back and forth motion on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste and not to swallow it. Do not rinse.
The following video from Dental Health Services Victoria shows how to care for children’s teeth and tips for successful toothbrushing sessions.
How to prevent tooth decay
What is tooth decay?
- Tooth decay occurs when a hole forms in a tooth. This is called a cavity.
- Tooth decay can affect people of all ages. Baby teeth can decay as soon as they appear.
- Tooth decay is very common in children. It is the main reason for avoidable hospital visits of children under five.
Checking for tooth decay
- It is important to lift your child’s top lip regularly to check for signs.
- White lines along the gum line can be the beginning of tooth decay.
- If you notice any changes, please visit an oral health professional quickly. They can help reverse early stages of tooth decay.
Preventing tooth decay
Tooth decay is easy to avoid by ensuring your child:
- has good teeth cleaning habits
- enjoys healthy meals and drinks
- starts regular dental care from a professional from 12-months of age.
Dental health for babies
Healthy baby teeth are important. Baby teeth can decay as soon as they appear. Make your baby’s first dental appointment at around 12 months of age.
If your child has a fever (above 38 degrees Celsius) and diarrhoea, seek medical advice urgently. If you have any concerns get advice from your medical practitioner.
If your baby seems more irritable, is dribbling, has red cheeks or swollen gums, they may be growing teeth. You can make them more comfortable by:
- gently massaging their gums with clean fingers or a soft, wet cloth
- giving them chilled (but never frozen) teething rings or unsweetened rusks (after the age of six months).
- Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle. This can cause tooth decay from milk staying in their mouth and on their teeth.
- Babies are smart! They can start to use a cup at 6 months. Learning to hold and drink from a cup is an important new skill. Aim to stop using the bottle by 12-months.
- Avoid cleaning the teat of the bottle in your mouth.
- Do not give your baby sugar. Learn more about what drinks to avoid.
Healthy food and drinks
- Breast milk and infant formula are the best drinks.
- Tap water should be boiled and cooled before drinking.
- Fruit juice and other sweet drinks are not recommended.
- The best meals are those made at home from simple ingredients with no added sugar, honey or salt.
- Avoid sharing spoons with your child.
- If you are breastfeeding, don't start using a dummy until you are comfortable with how to breast feed.
- Don’t put anything sweet on a dummy.
- Clean the dummy under running water. Do not put in your own mouth as you may pass on decay-producing germs to your child.
- Avoid using a dummy during play hours as it prevents your baby from babbling and sound making. This is important for their speech development.
- You can start helping your child to give up their dummy from 12-months. Speak to your doctor or oral health professional for advice.
Dental health for children aged 12-months and older
Healthy teeth are important every age.
Healthy food and drinks
- From 12 months, children can enjoy the healthy foods you feed your whole family. Touching, chewing, tasting and texture experience is very important.
- Plain, full-cream milk and tap water are the best drinks for children. They do not need baby formula.
- Most tap water has fluoride added. This helps strengthen teeth and protect them from decay.
- The best healthy snacks are fresh fruit, chopped vegetables, plain yoghurt with no added sugar, cheese, wholemeal or wholegrain sandwiches and wholegrain dry biscuits.
- It is better to offer whole fruit instead of juice.
- Allow one-and-a-half hours break between each meal and snack.
Things to avoid
- Don’t give your children sugar. It increases risk of tooth decay. This includes food and drinks that say ‘no added sugar’ on the label. Learn how much sugar is in common foods.
- Do not give your children sweet drinks. These are flavoured milks, soft drinks, flavoured cordials, 100% orange juice and other fruit drinks.
- Limit use of food pouches. Chewing food helps make jaw muscles strong for talking and eating.
- Avoid sharing spoons with your child.
Your child’s first trip to the dentist
Our dental staff are very experienced in managing young children. You can help by letting them be the focus of your child's attention.
Helping your child prepare for their appointment
- Be positive about the dental visit
- Treat it just like an everyday outing
- Take time at home to pretend to count their teeth
- Talk about the special chair ride and the cool sunglasses
- Bring along their favourite toy for a ride
What to do on the day
- Try to arrive a little early so your child can get used to the new surroundings
- Appointments work much better when your child is not tired. Try an appointment early in the day
- If you have any worries about your child's visit, talk to our staff before the appointment
- Don't worry!
Who will do the treatment?
- Dental and oral health therapists provide most of the dental care in a friendly and caring environment.
- Occasionally we may refer your child to see a dentist, should this be required it will be discussed with you.
How to book a dental appointment for your child
We provide free dental care to children under 18 years of age if you have a Medicare Card.
We have clinics available across Tasmania.
Read more about our Dental Health Service for Babies, Children and Teens or call 1300 011 013 to make an appointment.
We have a range of partners who can provide more information on good dental health for children and families.