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Dental Tips for Kids

For the latest oral health news, visit the American Dental Association (ADA) website.

Healthy teeth and good dental health habits start in the first years of life. Here are a few dental tips for the smallest members of your family to help them maintain healthy teeth and avoid cavities, gum disease and other dental health issues.

When do I start?

  • Before your baby has teeth, begin cleaning your baby's gums with a clean wet soft cloth after each feeding.
  • Begin brushing your child's teeth as soon as they appear. Use a small pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to brush at bedtime.

How can I avoid baby bottle cavities?

Decay can begin as soon as your child begins to get teeth. To help prevent "nursing bottle mouth" or "baby bottle tooth decay":

  • Do not give your child a bottle or sippy cup at bedtime or naptime with milk, formula or juice. Make sure it contains only plain water.
  • Do not use a bottle as a pacifier.

Time to go to the dentist!

  • Children should visit the dentist by their first birthday.
  • The dentist will examine your child's mouth for early signs of decay and other problems. The dentist will tell you many of the things you will need to know about helping your child grow up cavity-free.

How can I prepare my child for their first dental visit?

Fun, not fear! Make your child's first visit to the dentist enjoyable and positive.

  • Tell your child in advance that someone will look at their teeth and clean them.
  • Take your younger children along for your or an older sibling's dental visit so that they can get accustomed to the office and the staff.
  • Be positive and talk about the importance of a healthy mouth.
  • Be a good role model.

What role does nutrition play in healthy dental development?

Healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Many snacks that children eat can lead to the formation of cavities. Limit your child's snacks.

Healthy snack ideas for kids (PDF)

Choose nutritious foods such as:

  • Vegetables
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Popcorn
  • Milk
  • Fruit
  • Low-fat cheeses
  • Nuts
  • Water

Encourage kids to drink water throughout the day (especially after eating sweets). It will help rinse sugar away from teeth until there is time for a proper brushing.

Be sure foods are age appropriate to avoid choking.

Is fluoride necessary?

Studies have shown that children who drink fluoridated water from birth have up to 65% fewer cavities. If you live in a community without fluoridated water supply, you can make sure your kids get their fluoride by using tablets, drops or gel and by having topical fluoride treatments applied at the dental office. Ask your dentist for advice.

Last Updated: 08/13/2020