Oral Health Care

Did you know that…

Cavities (tooth decay) are the most common childhood disease. Left untreated, dental disease can interfere with language development, eating, sleeping and the ability to learn, as well as predispose children to infection and some systemic diseases. Cavities are entirely preventable through education, fluoride and similar treatments, and proper nutrition.

Infants 0-6 months

Clean babies’ gums daily with a clean, damp washcloth, finger cot, or gauze pad. Hold babies while feeding them and never put babies in bed with a bottle. Milk and juice left to pool in babies’ mouths leads to early childhood cavities. Use only a clean pacifier, and never dip it in honey or anything sweet or alcoholic. Fluoride makes babies’ teeth stronger and more resistant to cavities. Starting at about 6 months, babies need fluoride through drinking water or a fluoride supplement prescribed by their physician.

Infants 6-12 months

At this age, the primary teeth begin to appear. These teeth are important to the development of permanent teeth and need to be kept clean and healthy. Babies’ teeth, mouths, and gums can show signs of early oral health problems at this age. White or brown spots or lesions behind the front teeth are an early sign of tooth decay. Clean babies’ teeth and gums with a soft bristle toothbrush.

Toddlers 12-24 months

Children should be involved at this age to help care for their teeth in order to build good oral hygiene habits. Encourage children to brush as early as 18 months, with assistance. Use songs, games and favorite toys to make brushing a positive experience. Use a pea-sized portion of toothpaste on the child’s brush. The tongue needs to be brushed and all surfaces of the teeth. When finished, children should rinse with water and spit if possible. The children’s toothbrushes should be identified with their names and air dried without touching each other. Brushes should be replaced every three months and after an illness.

Preschool 3-5 years

Practice brushing with preschoolers, making sure the surfaces of all teeth to the gum line are brushed. Young children cannot get their teeth clean by themselves. Until they are 7 or 8 years old, you will need to help them. Try brushing their teeth first and then letting them finish.


  • Contact Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures for fun downloadable games and color pages that promote dental health. There is also parent information that can be downloaded.
  • The local library has children’s books on dental care available for check-out.
  • The local health department may have resources and handouts on dental care for both children and their parents.
  • Contact your local dentist in your community about education materials such as disclosing tablets that color plaque left after brushing. Ask him if he will be a resource for dental emergencies. Ask for freebies.
  • www.adha.org/kidstuff American Dental Hygienists Association
  • www.crestsmiles.com/crest_kids
  • Dental Games, Toothbrushes & Toothpaste for Kids | Colgate® Kids

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