How do I look after my children's teeth?


By Dr. Marilyn Ong

Your child’s pearly whites are one of their great assets, their glowing smile is one of the first things people see. Good oral hygiene is an important habit to instil early in life, not only for the sake of their baby teeth but also their adult teeth. Did you know that holes in your teeth are made by bacteria? Holes in baby teeth may look harmless, but they’re providing a reservoir of bacteria to attack those adult teeth as they appear. We commonly hear questions from new parents asking about oral hygiene for their children, so we’ve worked up a handy guide to help you along.

When do we need to start brushing?

As soon as the first tooth appears you need to be using a soft cloth to wipe. However, encourage wiping the gums with gauze early on to get them used to having something in the mouth.

How long do we need to brush?

Ideally, it takes 2 minutes to brush. Kids can be little speedsters though so you may find it helpful to set an egg timer (let them set it themselves if old enough), or play a favourite song and tell them to brush until the song finishes.

What should we use to clean?

  • Up to 1 year old: No toothpaste, use a damp face washer wrapped around your finger. Wrap your finger well! Even early and without teeth, they’ve got a strong bite on them!
  • After 1 year start using a small soft toothbrush. The smaller the head the better. Kids have small mouths and teeth so they need a small brush to get in there. Macleans Milk Teeth is an example of a great brush. At this age kids still, like to chew the brush and their opening for you may be limited. So use the brush, but keep the face washer handy to get hard to reach spots.
  • 2 years old and older: Now is the time to bring in a lower fluoride children's toothpaste. Continue with the small soft toothbrush. Use small circular motions with the brush and go all the way down to the gums.
  • And don’t forget the floss! As soon as the teeth are touching each other we recommend flossing. The small flossettes are quite often easier the manage than the normal string.

How can I encourage my child to brush?

  • Start early. Even when they are infants, getting them used to a soft cloth on their gums prepares them.
  • Let them watch you and their sibling's brush. Kids love to mimic. A good morning and night brushing habit of your own will encourage them to do the same. Use exaggerated movements and make it look like you’re having a great time.
  • Let them have a go! When it’s early days we won’t expect them to brush well, but encourage them, even if it’s not as thorough as you would like. Make it a fun exercise. After they’ve had their turn, then make a game out of checking their mouth and having your own turn at cleaning for them.
  • Songs, books and videos about brushing teeth can be helpful to make things look fun. The Wiggles also have an app which encourages and rewards brushing.
  • Toothbrushes with a favourite character can be helpful. Alternatively, put stickers on the handle, or get a character cup for them to use for rinsing.
  • For kids who are brushing on their own, something that shows them where they didn’t brush is a great tool! For example, Piksters Plaque Glo is a toothpaste which stains the plaque. When you use the provided blue light your kids can see all the bugs they didn’t brush away! It’s a great visual cue. Plaque disclosing tablets are another great tool. They turn the plaque a pinkish colour, making it obvious to your child what they need to work on.

Is your child eligible for the Child Dental Benefit Schedule?

The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) is a scheme run by Medicare that provides eligible children up to $1,000 over 2 calendar years to pay for a range of dental services. It’s aimed at families who are already receiving other benefits, such as Family Tax Benefit A payments.

If your child is eligible, the CDBS will cover dental services including examinations, routine cleaning, repairing cracked teeth, fillings and root canals. It doesn’t cover orthodontic treatment (such as braces to straighten crooked teeth), any dental work that needs to be done in hospital, or cosmetic dental procedures (such as replacing missing teeth).

Have more questions?

To find out more, visit our Children's Dentistry page or contact our friendly team to organise an appointment with one of our dentists.

Any more questions?

Contact us