How to keep children's teeth healthy

Healthy habits that prevent gum disease and tooth decay start even before teeth erupt into the mouth. Children who have healthy mouths grow up into adults with healthy mouths.

How to brush a child's teeth

Adults need to brush their children’s teeth, as children under the age of seven or eight are too young to brush properly.  Brush the teeth with fluoride toothpaste two times a day, as soon as teeth erupt (come up). When brushing, use a small, soft toothbrush. 

  1. Pull the lip and cheek aside with a clean finger to see better.
  2. Brush where the teeth and gums meet.
  3. Use small back and forth movements.
  4. Brush the inside, the outside and the top of the teeth.

Visit a dental professional to learn when to start flossing and to get more information on mouth care. 

Tips for brushing a child's teeth

  • Wipe baby's gums with a damp cloth daily before teeth come in.
  • When baby's teeth start to appear, brush with a toothbrush.
  • Make brushing part of a daily routine.
  • Let children choose a favourite small, soft toothbrush to use.
  • Find a flavour of fluoride toothpaste that your child likes.
  • Sing a song, tell a story or play music while brushing.
  • Praise your child for letting you brush for them.
  • Let children practice brushing on their own but always have an adult finish brushing.
  • Try the knee-to-knee technique shown in this video to make brushing easier.


Tooth Brushing for children three and under - The knee-to-knee technique

How much fluoride toothpaste to use

Fluoride is a proven way to strengthen teeth for all ages. It is a mineral that occurs naturally in some private water systems and wells. There is no fluoride added to the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) water supply, so fluoride toothpaste is recommended as soon as teeth come into the mouth.

  • Children under three years old should have their teeth brushed with a rice grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Children over three years old should have their teeth brushed with a pea-sized amount.

Healthy eating habits for healthy teeth

Healthy eating habits help keep your child's teeth healthier.

  • Avoid sipping drinks (other than water) and eating all day long, as this may cause tooth decay.
  • Teach children to use an open cup as soon as they can hold their head up.
  • After 12 months of age, offer milk and limited juice from the cup when your child is sitting and eating meals or snacks.
  • Offer water when your child is thirsty between meals and snacks.
  • Offer children three meals and two to three planned healthy snacks a day.
  • Follow Canada’s Food Guide.

Taking a child to the dentist

Take your child to see the dentist by 12 months of age. Regular dental check-ups can help prevent tooth decay. 

At the dentist, ask about dental sealants for your child once adult teeth come in. Dental sealants are coatings placed in the grooves of the back teeth to prevent tooth decay.


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