Taking care of your child’s teeth now is an investment in their lifelong health

Taking care of your child’s teeth now is an investment in their lifelong health

A little creativity, consistency, and patience can give your child the gift of good oral health for their whole lives.

Encourage good habits early

Oral health can affect overall health so it is important to start children off on the right foot with proper nutrition, daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental care.

Establishing a dental care routine with your child through encouragement and praise will go a long way to preventing and controlling early stages of cavities.

When should you take your child to the dentist for the first time?

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that children see a dentist just after their first teeth begin to appear. This gives parents a good opportunity to learn how to properly clean their baby’s teeth and prevent cavities.

Sadly, 57% of children in Canada aged 6 to 11 years are experiencing dental decay. It’s important to help prevent dental problems and encourage children to practice good dental hygiene while they are young.

How can parents help their children reduce the chance of getting cavities?

Start early and be consistent

Even before your baby’s teeth have appeared, your baby can get used to having his or her mouth cleaned. Using a soft baby brush or wet facecloth, gently wipe your baby’s gums after each feeding.

Once the baby teeth start to come through, continue with a soft baby toothbrush, cleaning gently to remove potential sources of bacteria.

baby teeth clean mouth early healthy food cloth brush

There are many ways parents and those caring for babies and children can promote good oral hygiene:

• Feed your baby and child healthy fresh fruits and vegetables

• Avoid sugary snacks

• Never add anything sweet to a pacifier

• Fruit juices and other sugary drinks should be limited and not served in baby bottles or sippy cups.

• Never give babies and children sweet drinks at bedtime

Children under 3 years

Before the age of three, children will need their parents’ help to brush their teeth properly. Be sure to use fluoridated toothpaste.

Supervise children who brush their own teeth

Children aged 3 to 10 years

When children are able to brush their own teeth it is still important for parents and caregivers to carefully supervise them to ensure that the child is brushing properly.

Always supervise children 10 and under, and make sure they use a small amount of toothpaste – pea-size is enough. To avoid dental fluorosis or mottled enamel while enamel is forming, make sure your child does not swallow toothpaste.

Always be sure to tell them what a good job they are doing when they are finished.

Proper Brushing Technique – Aim for two minutes twice a day

Be sure to use toothbrushes designed for children; smaller toothbrush heads that can reach into small mouths will do a better job. Electric toothbrushes like the Sonicare for Kids is a better choice, if it is within your budget. It now has a coaching app that you can download onto your device and connects to the toothbrush via Bluetooth to help your child learn how to brush properly. The toothbrush has a 2-minute timer and stops on its own after the 2 minutes are up. The sonic technology also helps compensate for children’s developing techniques as they grow better at brushing.

CBC Kids

Choosing the right toothbrush

A small toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles will be best for your baby or young child. You will need to replace it every three months or sooner if the bristles become worn down.

What toothpaste is best?

There are toothpastes specially made for children but most toothpastes that contain fluoride and are approved by the Canadian Dental Association will do a good job. Kid-friendly flavours and themes can encourage children to want to brush more often and for longer. However, if you notice your child eating the toothpaste because of the fruity flavor, it is probably better to switch it to a less tasty option. One of the major causes for dental fluorosis and mottled enamel is the ingestion of toothpaste. You can ask your dentist for recommendations. The Sensodyne Pronamel for Children is what our office recommends for kids.

Proper brushing technique

Step 1: To properly brush children's teeth, the parent or child should angle a soft-bristled toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gums of the upper and lower teeth.

brushing teeth gums 45 degree angle children parents

Step 2: The toothbrush should be moved gently in a back-and-forth motion with short strokes along the teeth and gums.

brushing teeth every day twice 45 degree angle bristles soft round children

How to Floss

Step 1

Take a piece of floss about as long as your child's arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches between the hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth.

flossing teeth wrap around fingers clean children parents

Step 2

Slide the floss between the teeth and wrap it into a "C" shape. It should wrap around the base of the tooth, where the tooth meets the gum.

floss C shape fingers between clean teeth children parents child help

Step 3

Wipe the tooth from bottom to top 2 or 3 times or more, until it is squeaky clean.

Be sure you floss both sides of each tooth, and don't forget the backs of the last molars.

Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

Source: Colgate

Children aged 6 to 13 years

As children become more capable of brushing and flossing, parents will still need to check that they are using the proper technique. It is recommended that children brush twice a day for two minutes each time, and floss at least once a day.

Again, remind children to avoid eating sweets.

children brushing teeth twice a day two minutes toothbrush


If you’ve already established a good dental hygiene routine with your children, then by the time they are teenagers, they may need only an occasional reminder. Teens need to brush twice a day and floss once a day. Rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash is also recommended. Discuss the harmful effects of using tobacco, and remind teens to choose their snacks wisely, minimize sugary foods, and make healthy choices.

The importance of Fluoride

Ask your dentist or dental hygienist about how much fluoride your baby or young child needs for the healthy development of their bones and teeth. It is vital to get the right amount of fluoride. Too much fluoride can cause mottling of the teeth, and too little can lead to early childhood caries. Fluoride is found in drinking water and in toothpaste. However, tap water in the Kitchener-Waterloo area is no longer fluoridated, thus increasing the importance of choosing a toothpaste that contains fluoride and visiting your dentist at least once a year for a teeth cleaning.

Visiting the Dentist

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that infants be seen by a dentist within 6 months of the first tooth erupting or by one year of age. It’s a good idea to visit the dentist when your baby has their first few teeth so you can learn proper prevention techniques and check that you are properly cleaning their mouth and teeth. If there are any problems your dentist can address these before they become worse.

It is important for parents to set a good example for kids when it comes to oral health and regular visits to the dentist. Young children are very impressionable, thus making it easier for parents to establish good habits and routines simply by role modeling. Regular visits to the dentist combined with a conscientiously applied good oral hygiene routine at home will help your growing family to have better oral health for years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about cavity prevention and oral health care for your baby or young child, we would be happy to help you. Please contact Dentistry in Waterloo for a consultation.