Oral Care for Kids

You should start cleaning your child’s mouth even before your child has teeth. This creates a good habit for yourself and the child in maintaining their oral care. The goal is to wipe all parts of the gums, which will eventually allow their primary teeth to erupt into a clean oral environment.

Usually a good rule to follow for children’s brushing is when a child can write (not print) their name, the child is ready to brush on their own. However you should try and be present as often as you can to encourage proper brushing technique.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Lie your child down in a comfortable position where you can see their mouth
  • Use a soft Q-tip or wrap your finger in a clean, damp washcloth. Then, brush or wipe your baby’s gums and teeth.
  • Tooth paste is not required until your child has teeth.

How to Brush

  1. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Point the bristles to where the gums and teeth meet.
  2. Use gentle circles. Do not scrub. Clean every surface of every tooth. The key is to be gentle. You can hurt the gums by brushing too hard and turning the child off from brushing. Always try and make it a fun experience, especially in the beginning.


The best kind of brush is soft, with rounded bristles. It should be the right size for your child’s mouth. You will need to buy a new toothbrush at least every 3 months.


Make sure the toothpaste has fluoride. Check the box or tube for the symbol of the Canadian Dental Association. This symbol means the toothpaste has fluoride. Use only a pea size portion of toothpaste and make sure your child spits it out.

As excessive swallowing of toothpaste by young children may result in dental fluorosis, children under 6 years of age should be supervised during brushing and only use a small amount of toothpaste.

Children under 3 years of age should have their teeth brushed by an adult. Tooth paste with fluoride is often not required for children of this age group. Only a small group of high risk children will require fluoridated toothpaste at this age. Consult our dentists at Upper Village Dental Care for further assistance on this matter.

Children from 3 to 6 years of age should be assisted by an adult in brushing their teeth. Only a small amount (a portion the size of a green pea) of fluoridated toothpaste should be used.

How to Floss

  1. Take a piece of floss about as long as your child’s arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches between the hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth.
  2. Slide the floss between the teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape. It should wrap around the base of the tooth, where the tooth meets the gum.
  3. Wipe the tooth from bottom to top 2 or 3 times or more, until it is squeaky clean.
    Be sure you floss both sides of each tooth, and don’t forget the backs of the last molars.
    Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.

Should my child always brush right before bed?

Yes. Brushing at night before bed is the most critical time of the day. Often tooth decay start during the hours when we are sleeping. This is usually when the body does not produce a lot of saliva which is used to protect the teeth from bacteria. It is also important to remember not to eat or drink anything but water after nightly brushing.

Your Child’s First Visit

At Upper Village Dental Care, we recommend the assessment of a child’s oral cavity within 6-12 months of their first tooth, or by the age of 2 years. The goal of the first visit is often just to make the child comfortable with the dental environment. This usually means a easy visit involving introductions and a possible “chair ride”.

Here are 3 reasons to take your child for dental exams:

  • You can find out if the cleaning you do at home is working.
  • Your dentist can find problems right away and fix them.
  • Your child can learn that going to the dentist helps prevent problems.

At the first visit depending on the age of the child, we may require X-rays to properly assess their teeth. At Upper Village Dental Care, we only use the latest technology in digital radiography in order to minimize the amount of radiation that the child is exposed to. This is often less than the amount of radiation a child will experience outside on sunny day.

Why do we bother with fillings on baby teeth if they are going to fall out??

Some primary (or baby) teeth will be in your child’s mouth until age 12. The tooth that needs to be fixed may be one of those.

Broken teeth or teeth that are infected can hurt your child’s health and the way your child feels about him or herself.

A filling can be a cheap and easy way to fix a problem that could be painful and cost more later because it stops decay from spreading deeper into the tooth.

If a filling is not done and decay spreads, the tooth may need to be pulled out or risk further infection to the developing adult tooth. If this happens, your child may need a space maintainer to hold space for the permanent tooth because the primary teeth on each side of the missing tooth will move into the empty space blocking the permanent tooth’s eruption.

Nutrition for Children

When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child’s mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel). It can make holes (or cavities) in the teeth.

The damage that sugars do depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth.

Any kind of sugar will mix with germs in the mouth. Natural sugars can have the same effect on teeth as white (or refined) sugar out of the bag! Many healthy foods contain natural sugars. Milk contains natural sugar.

If you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, the milk stays in the mouth for a long time. This may cause cavities. Unsweetened fruit juice may have no added sugar, but fruit juice has natural sugars in it. If your child is always sipping juice between meals, the teeth are being coated in sugars over and over again.

Water is the best drink to have between meals. Starchy foods, like teething biscuits, break down to make sugars. If these kinds of food stay in your child’s mouth long enough, they will make the acid that can cause cavities. Your job is to clean your child’s teeth, not to stop your child from having milk, juice, bread or noodles. Your child needs these foods to stay healthy.

Read the labels of the packaged food you buy. By law, everything ingredient in packaged food is listed by weight. So if a sugar is listed first, you know that there is more sugar than anything else.

These are sugars you can look for on labels: corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose.

Also, check to see if liquid medicines (such as cough syrup) have sugars. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to give you medicines that are sugar-free.


Growing children need and like snacks. Here are some smart ways to give snacks:

Limit the number of times a day your child eats or drinks sugars. If your child sips juice or pop while playing, he or she will have sugars in the mouth over and over again. Water is the best drink to have between meals.

Do not give your child sugar-rich foods that stay in the mouth for a long time like gum with sugar in it, suckers (or lollipops) and other hard candy. Stay away from soft, sticky sweets that get stuck in the mouth such as toffee, raisins and rolled-up fruit snacks or fruit leather.

Keep good snacks handy where your child can get them. Have carrot sticks or cheese cubes on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Children like small things like small boxes of cereal, small fruits and vegetables, and small packs of nuts or seeds (provided they are safe for your child). Keep them in a low cupboard.

To keep your child from asking for sweets, do not buy them. If they are not in the house, you can’t give them out. If you do serve sweets, limit them to meals. When your child is eating a meal, there is more saliva in the mouth. This helps to wash away the sugars.

Pacifiers & Thumb Sucking

It is normal for babies to suck because it helps them relax.

By the time your child is two or three years of age, he or she has less need to suck. If your child still likes to suck, a soother is better than sucking a thumb. Why? Because you can control when and how your child uses a soother. You can’t control a thumb going into the mouth.

Never put sugar, honey or corn syrup on a soother. They can cause cavities. It’s best to get your child to stop sucking before permanent teeth come in, at about age five. If a child keeps sucking a soother or thumb after the permanent teeth have come in, it could cause problems with how the jaw and teeth grow.

Ask the dentist at Upper Village Dental Care for helpful tips on breaking these habits.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Once your child has teeth, he is susceptible to tooth decay. Mother’s milk, formula, cow’s milk and fruit juice all contain sugars which will lead to decay.

Babies can get tooth decay from going to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice. Even breast-feeding children at night can increase the risk of tooth decay, however this is uncommon.

As parents, it’s always important and helpful to look into your child’s mouth for any unusal problem or white staining on their teeth. If anything appears new or out of the ordinary its always advisable to see one of our dentist for a closer inspection. Prevention is often the best treatment for tooth decay.

Reference: Canadian Dental Association

return to top