A Guide For Proper Dental Treatment At Every Age

When your child was first born you probably started following a rigorous schedule of appointments with your pediatrician to keep him or her healthy. Many parents are not aware that children also need proper dental care and oral check-ups starting at an early age.

Tooth decay in toddlers, preschoolers and school- age children is one of the leading preventable diseases in the U.S. It can lead to several health and lifestyle complications, including pain and soreness, improper speech development, inability to chew properly, missed school days, premature loss of baby teeth, infections, inflammation and gum disease.

Here is a quick guide to help you understand your child’s oral care needs from birth through teenage years.


Just because kids lose baby teeth doesn’t mean they don’t need them—baby teeth are important placeholders for adult teeth and are at risk for tooth decay without proper care.

Birth to 12 months:
• Makeoral health check-ups part of your baby’s well-child visits with yourdoctor.
• When the first teeth erupt from the gums, wipe them gently with a wet wash cloth or lightly brush them with water and an extra soft bristle toothbrush. Do not use toothpaste.

12 to 24 months:
• Brush your child’s teeth at least twice aday using a baby toothbrush and water.Talk to the dentist about whether you should use toothpaste.
• Avoid sugary drinks like juice or milk between meals and fill bottles with water when putting children to sleep.
• Wean children of sucking habits on things like pacifers or thumbs.
• Take your child for their first visit with a dentist before age 2.
• Talk to your dentist about how to help your child get enough fuoride, especially in Utah whereit’s not in the water.


Baby teeth play a role in helping toddlers and preschoolers with chewing, swallowing, speech development and creating space for adult teeth.

Ages 2-5:
• Helpchildren brush their teeth for 2 minutes, 2 times aday. Use asoft-bristle toothbrush anda pea-size amount of fuoride toothpaste, making sure the child doesn’t swallow it.
• Begin fossing as soon as two teeth touch each other.
• Dentists recommend that you continue to help your child brush until the age of 4, or around they timethey have the motor skills to neatly write their name.
• Go in for dental check-ups once or twice ayear.
• Fill sippy cups with water and limit sugary drink intake (juice, milk, sports drinks, soda, lemonade and tea).
• Feed your child healthy meals and snacks that are low in sugar.

Ages 6-10:
• Around age6 children will start losing baby teeth as permanent teeth erupt.
• Schedule dentist appointments every six months for check-ups and cleanings.
• Feed children healthy food and snacks to help develop strong teeth and healthy gums.
• Talk to your dentist about getting sealants on permanent molars to protect against cavities.
• As children begin participating in sports and outdoor recreation, makesure teeth are protected with a mouth guard.
• TheAmerican Academy of Orthodontists recommends children get screened around age 7 to identify developmental, jaw, or bite problems. Correcting issues early may prevent more extensive (and expensive) orthodontic treatment later.


As children grow they should take on more of the responsibility for good oral health.
• Teens should be brushing morningand night with a soft bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
• Encourage fossingat least oncea day to remove plaque betweenteeth.
• Continue to visit the dentist for check-ups twice ayear.
• Help your teenagers eat a healthy diet that is highin lean protein, fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in sugar andprocessedfoods.
• Teach your children about thedangers of cigaretteand secondhand smoke, which can contribute to tooth decay, gum disease and other health issues.
• Visit an orthodontist (if you have not done it yet) to find out if your childwill need braces.

Proper oral health care at an early age can help prevent problems later in life. Oral health is intricately connected to our overall health and should be just as much a priority as doctor visits.

This Dental Treatment article written by
William Carroll, DDS
Roseman University of Health Sciences

Dr. Carroll is Associate Dean for Academic Afairs and Associate Professor at Roseman University College of Dental Medicine. He graduated from the UCSF School of Dentistry, completed a two-year AEGD residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and recently retired from the US Navy after more than 30 years of service.
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