Updated on February 22, 2024
7 min read

How to Keep Kids Teeth Healthy

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

Healthy teeth are an essential part of your child’s overall well-being. Establishing good dental hygiene habits early on will set your child up for a lifetime of strong oral health.

However, cavities are very common among children. Most kids between ages 6 and 8 have had a cavity in one or more baby teeth.1

Learning good dental health habits at a young age prevents cavities and promotes healthy gums and a beautiful smile. 

This guide covers key tips to help you maintain your child’s dental health, starting before their first baby teeth come in. Consult your child’s dentist or family doctor for any questions or concerns. 

Listen In Q&A Format

How to Keep Kids Teeth Healthy
NewMouth Podcast

Dental Hygiene for Babies and Children

Tooth brushing is a fundamental part of oral care, and it should begin when your child is an infant.

Some people don’t think it’s important for children to brush because baby teeth eventually fall out. However, neglecting tooth brushing early on can lead to decay in baby teeth. In addition to causing discomfort and sometimes pain and infection, this can cause problems when the permanent (adult) teeth grow in.

Here’s how to keep your child’s mouth healthy, from infancy to over 6 years of age:

dad and son brushing teeth in bathroom

0 to 3 Years

Use a soft, clean piece of gauze to clean your baby’s gums after feeding. 

When your child starts teething, — usually around 6 months — begin gently brushing twice daily. Use a soft-bristled child-size toothbrush with a small (the size of a grain of rice) amount of children’s fluoride toothpaste. At this age, many children cannot spit out any remaining toothpaste. 

3 to 6 Years

For toddlers and children aged 3 to 6, brush their teeth twice daily. You will need to assist your child with tooth brushing at this time. Most children aren’t able to effectively brush their own teeth until they’re a little older. 

Use a pea-sized amount of children’s fluoridated toothpaste. Make sure they spit out the toothpaste.

6+ Years

Continue brushing your child’s teeth until you’re sure they can clean them safely and effectively themselves. Keep using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on a child-sized toothbrush until your child’s permanent teeth have grown in.

Everything You Need to Keep Your Kid’s Teeth Healthy

Keep Your Baby’s Mouth Healthy

EASICUTI disposable oral clearner toothbrush

This list has all the supplies you’ll need to start taking care of your baby’s teeth. 

Keep Your Toddler’s Mouth Healthy

(18+ months)
Dentek Kids Fun Flossers

This list has all the supplies you’ll need to start taking care of your toddler’s (18+ months) teeth. 

When Should a Child Floss?

Children should begin flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch. This usually happens around ages 2 to 3. Some children, however, may have teeth that are close together at an even younger age. Always ask your child’s dentist or family doctor about when it’s appropriate to start flossing.

Your child will need help flossing until around age 7 or 8. After that, they should be able to floss their own teeth.

What Age Should a Child Go to the Dentist?

As soon as a baby’s first tooth appears (usually 4 to 6 months of age), schedule a visit with your dentist.

The American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines suggest that every child’s first dentist visit should happen within 6 months of the first tooth eruption and before the first birthday. 

If your baby has had no teeth come in by 12 months, schedule a dental visit.

What Treatments Might a Pediatric Dentist Recommend?

Depending on your child’s needs, a pediatric dentist may recommend the following treatments to supplement oral care at home:

  • Dental sealants — a special coating that fills in any grooves on your child’s back teeth (molars) to prevent decay.
  • Fluoride varnish or oral fluoride supplements — to strengthen teeth if your child doesn’t get enough fluoride from other sources, such as tap water.

How to Prevent Cavities in Children

Tooth decay is the most common childhood dental problem, but it’s preventable.1 Sugary drinks are the most common cause of pediatric tooth decay, or cavities.

Here are some tips to avoid cavities in children:

  • Limit sugar intake avoid sweetened water, soft drinks, and fruit juice. Water is the best drink for babies and toddlers.
  • Don’t put your baby to sleep with a bottle when a baby falls asleep with a bottle, some milk stays in their mouth and on their teeth. When they’ve finished feeding, wipe their mouth with a damp cloth before bed.
  • Use clean pacifiers don’t dip them in honey or sugar.
  • Try not to share saliva cavity-causing bacteria can be passed from parent to baby. Avoid putting spoons or food in your mouth before giving them to your baby.
  • Clean the gums and teeth regularly use a soft, damp cloth to wipe your baby’s gums before their primary teeth come in. Start brushing their teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.

What Are the Risk Factors for Cavities in Children?

A child may be at greater risk for developing cavities in their baby teeth if:

  • Family members, such as parents or older siblings, have cavities
  • Their diet contains a lot of sugary foods and drinks, like candy and soda
  • They wear an orthodontic appliance, such as braces

When Do Primary Teeth Grow in?

Babies are born with 20 primary (baby) teeth in their jaw. Primary teeth usually begin coming through the gums at 4 to 6 months of age. 

The first primary teeth to come in are usually the lower central incisors (bottom two front teeth). The top front teeth typically grow in next, followed by the lateral incisors. The first molars usually erupt before the canines.

The second molars are the last of the baby teeth to erupt. By age 3, most children will have a full set of primary teeth. 

When Do Primary Teeth Fall Out?

Kids usually start losing baby teeth around the age of 6 or 7. They usually fall out in the order they grew in, starting with the central incisors.

If your child’s primary teeth were delayed in erupting, they’re more likely to fall out later. The eruption chart below shows the typical order and age range in which baby teeth will come in and fall out (shed).

timeline of primary teeth eruption

Why Are Primary Teeth Important?

It’s a common misunderstanding that you don’t need to worry about caring for baby teeth because they’re going to fall out. 

Even though your child only has their baby teeth for a short time, they serve essential functions, such as:

  • Giving shape to your child’s face
  • Assisting with proper speech
  • Promoting good nutrition by helping your child chew
  • Laying the foundation for healthy permanent teeth

Common Questions About Keeping Kids’ Teeth Healthy

When should oral hygiene begin for children?

Oral hygiene should begin before a baby’s first teeth come in. Wipe your baby’s mouth and gums with a soft cloth or gauze. Start brushing when they begin teething.

How do you help a toddler who hates brushing their teeth?

It can be tricky to get a toddler to understand the importance of tooth brushing. Try turning dental hygiene into a fun activity by playing a song, using kid-friendly dental products, or rewarding your toddler with stickers.

At what age do molars grow in? 

Molars are among the last primary teeth to come in. The first molars come in when a toddler is a little over 1 year old (13 to 19 months). The second molars erupt a little after a toddler is 2 years old.

Summary

Starting good oral care at an early age will set your child up for healthy teeth for life. Oral hygiene should begin even before a baby starts teething. 

Regular dental exams and tooth brushing should begin as soon as your baby gets their first tooth. Primary teeth play a vital role in a child’s dental health, even though they eventually fall out.

In addition to brushing and flossing their teeth, children must eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water to maintain good oral hygiene. Always seek professional medical advice from a dentist or family doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Last updated on February 22, 2024
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 22, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Children’s Oral Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  2. Duijster, et al. “Establishing oral health promoting behaviors in children — parents’ views on barriers, facilitators and professional support: a qualitative study.” BMC Oral Health, 2015.
  3. Frequently Asked Questions.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, nd. 
  4. Flossing and Children.” Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, nd.
  5. Eruption Charts.” American Dental Association, nd.
  6. Baby Teeth.” American Dental Association, nd.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram