Caring for Your Young Child's Teeth

Caring for Your Young Child’s Teeth

Some people believe that “Baby” teeth aren’t important, because they are just going to fall out anyways, right?   While this is true, they are very important to hold a spot for the adult teeth to come in.  If a baby tooth is removed too soon, the adult tooth may not erupt in the proper location, (or at all) causing mis-aligned teeth (and a lot of money spent on braces).  .Another consideration is that it is possible to never get some adult teeth. Approximately 20% of the population has at least one congenitally missing tooth.    If the baby tooth is taken care of it can last well into adulthood, and then can be properly replaced if needed.   Perhaps the most important consideration is pain.  Decay even in baby teeth is very painful for your child and completely preventable. 


From Birth to First Tooth

Clean your baby’s gums with a clean damp cloth or piece of gauze, at least twice a day especially after feedings and before bedtime.  This does two things: 

1. decreases the bacteria in your child’s mouth that can cause cavities once the teeth erupt and 

2.  Gets your child used to having a “toothbrush” in their mouth. They will be much more accepting of the toothbrush once their first tooth erupts.

First Tooth to Age 3

Use a soft brush, with a small head and large handle to carefully brush erupted teeth.   Use a grain of rice sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste (95% of BC has no fluoride in the water so they will not be getting too much, but keep the amount rice sized).  After you brush the teeth, give the brush to your baby and let them have a go.   However, do not let your baby wander around with a toothbrush in hand, they can injure themselves with it. 

Age 3 to 6

Continue brushing your child’s teeth for them, you can increase the amount of toothpaste to a “pea” sized amount.   Encourage your child to spit after brushing, they may not be able to do this on their own until around 5 or 6 years old. As they get older you can let them be more in control of the brushing, but keep checking and re-brushing (especially at bedtime) if necessary as they become more independent.   You can start flossing your child’s teeth.  Floss sticks are great for this as the teeth tend to be far apart.


While your child is capable of brushing on their own, it is a good idea to check in every once in a while to make sure they are doing a good job (and not just wetting the toothbrush).  Disclosing tablets are great for this, to show both you and them where they are missing. ( I still surprise check my 13 year old every once in a while.)   It is also a good idea to brush with your child so you can demonstrate good technique and make sure they are brushing a full 2 minutes.  Let your child start flossing their own teeth, floss picks are a good choice. Up until about 8 years old they do not have the dexterity to floss with string floss.

Other tips to promote oral health in kids:


Diet is as important as brushing.   It is essential that your baby drinks nothing but milk/ formula/ water in their bottle / sippy cup.  If they go to bed with a bottle, it must only have water in it.  Sending them to bed with anything else can cause rampant decay.   The easiest way to deal with this is to never start.  However, if your child already takes juice / milk to bed with them, you can wean them off by adding a small amount of water and gradually increasing the water and decreasing the juice / milk.

Limit sugary snacks to 3 or less per day.  This includes dried fruits such as raisins, and very starchy food such as fishy crackers.  Great choices are cheese and nuts.

Do not put anything on their pacifier if they have one.  This includes honey and sugar.  It is also important not to put the pacifier in your mouth to “clean it off”, or to share eating utensils.

Family Dental Care

Take care of your other family members' teeth.   This is for two reasons:

1. Children learn from what they see, if they see you brushing, flossing and going to the dentist, they will be more accepting of it. 

2.  Babies are not born with any of the bacteria that cause tooth decay or periodontal disease.  They get them from family members by sharing food, kissing, pacifiers etc…   The better dental health everyone else in the family has, the less harmful bacteria will be transferred to your baby.


When should I take my baby for their first visit? 

It is generally recommended that your child see the dentist at age 1 or when the first tooth erupts.   Often they are too young to cooperate much, so they will only go for a “Chair Ride” and the dentist will have a quick look.  We always do only what the child is ready for, sometimes this means a full exam,  polish and fluoride, and sometimes this means sitting on Mom or Dad’s lap so the Dr. can have a quick look.  If you have any concerns prior to this time, then you should see the dentist then.

What do I do if my child’s teeth are not erupting when they are supposed to?

Every child's teeth erupt at a different rate and the guidelines are just that, guidelines.  If your child reaches preteen years and has not gotten their expected adult teeth yet, we will take x-rays to determine what is going on.  Until then there is no point worrying about it, as there is nothing that can be done until their jaw is more developed.

Should my Child use a Fluoridated Toothpaste?

Yes, it is important that your child use a fluoridated toothpaste.  It is the fluoride that prevents cavities from forming.  BC does not have fluoride in the water so there is no other source of protection..   Just be sure to use a rice sized amount until they are 3 and pea sized amount after that.

What if my child knocks out their tooth?

If it is an adult tooth, the best thing to do is put it back into the socket if possible, or keep it in the mouth until you can see a dentist.  If your child is young and at risk of swallowing the tooth, do not have them keep it in their mouth.   If the tooth falls out of the mouth, put it in a container where it is completely covered in milk or warm salt water.   Call the dentist right away (on the emergency line if after hours) and they will try to save the tooth.  If it is a baby tooth that was already wiggly, then it is not a concern.   If it was a baby tooth that was not ready to come out, treat it like an adult tooth.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to post them on our Facebook page, call the office, or ask your dental hygienist, assistant or dentist next time you are in for an appointment.   We love questions!

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