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Oral health care in children fact sheet

Oral health care in children

Good oral hygiene is vital for your child’s health and wellbeing. All children should be encouraged to look after their teeth from an early age.

Tips for oral health care in children

  • Encourage regular tooth brushing twice a day with full parental/carer supervision/support until your child is at least eight years old.
    • Infants: As soon as the first teeth appear, parents should clean the teeth using a soft moist cloth or a soft baby toothbrush if the baby will accept it.
    • From 12 months: Use a small headed, soft nylon toothbrush with a small pea size amount of children’s toothpaste.
    • Children should spit out toothpaste after brushing but not rinse. If your child is not able to spit (typically not until 3½ to 4 years of age), then only use a smear of toothpaste.
    • Twice daily toothbrushing is best practice, however if tooth brushing can only occur once a day, the priority is for tooth brushing before bed and after the last oral intake, including after any milk drinks or bottles at bedtime. Aim for two minutes.
    • Please note mouthwashes are not recommended for children less than 6 years of age.
  • Use manual or electric toothbrushes; both are effective.
  • Encourage flossing daily using dental floss or a flossette to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Avoid prolonged bottle feeding or leaving the child in bed with a bottle.
  • Introduce drinking from a cup around six months of age.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks, including a bottle or sipper cup containing juice or soft drink.
  • Change toothbrushes every three months or sooner if the bristles become splayed.
  • Each toothbrush is for the sole use of that child. It should be changed following an oral infection.
  • Parents and carers should avoid transferring oral bacteria to their child by:
    • maintaining good oral health themselves
    • avoiding the sharing of food, utensils, toothbrushes, floss, dummies or teats with their child.

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Resource No: FS305. Developed by the Speech Pathology Department, Queensland Children’s Hospital. Updated: February 2019. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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