Topic Overview

By now your child has been seeing a dentist regularly for
years. Continue with your usual schedule. If for some reason your child has not
yet seen a dentist, make an appointment for an exam.

More and
more of the responsibility for good dental habits belongs to your child

What your child can do

  • Your child should be brushing his or her own
    teeth morning and night with a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of
    fluoridated toothpaste. Watch to be sure he or she is
    doing a good job brushing.
  • Flossing is an important part of good
    dental health, but it can be a challenging task for a child to master. Talk
    with your dentist about the right technique to teach your child how to floss.
    Plastic flossing tools may help you and your child.
  • If your child
    has cavities, your dentist may recommend the use of a mouthwash that contains
    fluoride. But teach your child not to swallow it,
    because fluoride can be toxic in large amounts.
  • Use
    disclosing tablets from time to time to see whether
    any plaque is left on your child’s teeth after brushing. Disclosing tablets are
    chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after the child brushes.
    You can buy these at most drugstores.

What you and your dentist can do

  • After your child’s
    permanent teeth begin to appear, talk with your
    dentist about having dental sealant placed on the molars.
    Sealants are made of hard plastic and protect the
    chewing surfaces of the back teeth from
  • Discuss your child’s
    fluoride needs with your dentist. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend a supplement or a gel or varnish that he or she would apply to your child’s teeth. Use supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child’s teeth.
  • Good nutrition is important for building and
    maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Give your child nutritious foods to
    maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid tooth decay. These
    include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high
    in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread.
  • Keep
    your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may
    contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.footnote 1 Teach your child about the dangers of smoking and secondhand
  • Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or
    break a tooth. Learn how to prevent injuries to teeth and what to do in a
    dental emergency. For more information, see the topic Mouth and Dental



  1. American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products
    . Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD – Dentistry
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofMay 7, 2017