What should I do to take care of my child’s teeth?



Q. What should I do to take care of my child’s teeth?

A. I get this question often.  Below are the recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Best Practices for Pediatric Home Oral Care:


  • Practice good oral hygiene and seek dental care to avoid parental bacterial transmission.
  • Minimize exposure to foods that can lead to early childhood caries.
  • Hold the infant while feeding; never prop a bottle.
  • Do not allow the infant to fall asleep with a bottle that contains milk, formula, juice, or other sweetened liquid.
  • Clean gums after every meal with a soft cloth or gauze.

1 to 4 years

  • Brush the child’s teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt.
  • At an appropriate age, give children more freedom to brush on their own as they begin to do a more thorough job. Few children can do an adequate job of cleaning their mouths by themselves before age 5, so proceed with caution.
  • For children younger than age 2, brush the teeth with plain water twice daily, unless advised by a dentist to use fluoride toothpaste.
  • For children ages 2 years and older, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste twice daily.

5 to 10 years

  • Help with and supervise the brushing of a child’s teeth at least twice daily and with flossing if recommended by a dentist.
  • Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • Ensure the child drinks fluoridated water or uses prescribed fluoride supplements.
  • Make sure nutritious foods are available to children, while continuing to emphasize healthful eating patterns and the moderation of snacks established in infancy and early childhood.

11 to 21 years

  • Continue vigilant oral hygiene as taught in early childhood.
  • The dentist should consider dietary analysis, topical fluoride, antimicrobial regimens, and dental sealants for high-risk patients.
  • Be aware that adolescents’ risk of caries can be increased by susceptible tooth enamel as a result of:
    • immature enamel in newly-erupted permanent teeth
    • indifference to oral hygiene
    • frequent and unregulated exposure to high quantities of natural and refined sugars
    • eating disorders, such as bulimia
    • use of certain drugs, such as methamphetamine
    • frequent consumption of acidic drinks that can erode enamel


Source: Ed. Paul Casamassimo. Promoting Oral Health. Bright Futures:
Health Care Professionals Tools and Resources; 2008.
Source: Oral Health for Adults: Fact Sheets and FAQs. U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention; 2006.


Do you have a dental question you’d like answered?  Click here or Email us and watch this column for the answer!