Caring for your family's teeth

Did you know that caring for your family’s dental health starts at birth?

Poor oral health can lead to short and long-term physical discomfort but can also lead to poorer nutrition and quality of life.
According to St.LukesHealth’s Tasmanian Health Report, there are also associations between chronic oral infections and heart disease, stroke, diabetes and premature births later in life; with dental conditions being in the top five most common preventable hospitalisations for 25 to 34-year-olds.

So how can you ensure your children’s teeth continue to sparkle as they grow?


Your baby’s teeth will start to appear between four and 10 months. When your child is teething, it can be a testing time for both baby and parent. To help with the discomfort, slightly chilled teething rings (not frozen) or washcloths can help to alleviate any pain. Don’t add honey or jam to the chilled items as this can cause tooth decay.

It is time for your baby to have their first dental visit when their first few teeth become visible or when they are around one year old. Usually your first child’s visit to the dentist will involve discussions about teething, brushing techniques, habits such as thumb sucking, and the risk of tooth decay and how to prevent it. Your dentist can also show you the right technique for flossing.

You should encourage good dental health practices early on in your child’s life so that they see brushing their teeth as a normal part of life. Even if your child only has a few teeth, bacteria can get in and cause decay so you should start brushing as soon as the first tooth comes through. A great way to get your child used to cleaning their teeth is by wiping their gums with a soft cloth twice a day. As soon as the teeth begin to appear, begin brushing their teeth with a soft children’s toothbrush with no toothpaste until they are 18 months old. The easiest way to do this is to lay your child on your lap or on their bed.


Getting a toddler to do anything can be difficult at the best of times, but when it comes to their oral health it is important to teach them early.  Initially just use cold water and a soft children’s toothbrush with no toothpaste until your child is 18 months old. From 18 months, use children’s toothpaste and brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion.
Toddlers may put up a fight when it comes to cleaning their teeth, but it needs to be done consistently, twice a day, to prevent tooth decay. To make brushing more fun, create a brushing game, play your child’s favourite song or create a brushing the teeth song. You can also find a toothbrush and toothpaste at the supermarket which has your child’s favourite TV character on it.

Avoid giving your toddler sugary food and drinks and encourage unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruit, cheese, and lean meats. To check for tooth decay, lift your child’s top and bottom lips and check for white patches, which are the early signs of decay and can be reversed. Grey, brown, and black spots indicate more serious tooth decay and you should consult your dentist as soon as possible.


Your child will still need assistance from you to brush and floss their teeth until they are 7 or 8 years old, and may need supervision after that. Trying using an egg timer to ensure your child brushes their teeth for two minutes twice a day with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, which is a fun way to keep time. By the age of 10, your child should be able to floss and brush on their own.

Dental trauma can happen to young children at any stage, where their teeth are knocked out or damaged. If this happens:
  1. Find the tooth and make sure it’s clean. Hold it by the top (crown) only and not the root.
  2. Place the tooth back in position, making sure it is facing the right way around. If it is a baby tooth, don’t place it back in.
  3. Visit your dentist straight away. If you were unable to replant the tooth, transport it in milk or saliva.

Throughout life, it’s best to brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head and flexible neck to effectively remove plaque and debris without damaging teeth and gums. Your teen should continue to brush for two minutes twice a day.
To floss, wind about 45-centimetres of floss around the middle fingers and rest it across the thumbs and index fingers. Gently use an up and down motion that goes down one side of the tooth just under the gum and then move back up to the other side. If you’re unsure about the correct technique, ask your dentist or watch this video.

If your teenager has braces it is recommended they brush after every meal to clean away the food and plaque that can build up in the brackets. The best technique is to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and brush downwards to clean the top of the brackets, and brush upwards to clean the bottom section.  Flossing can be a little difficult, but a floss threader or interdental brush may work better in this instance.
If you have any questions regarding your child or teen’s oral hygiene, it is best to speak to your dentist.

You can also visit the Caring For Your Kids’ Teeth Facebook page for tips and tricks on ensuring you child continues to have a healthy smile.

Australian Dental Association – and Dental Health Services Victoria -
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