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Dental Care for Preschoolers





Healthy teeth and gums are vital to your child’s general health. You can get your child off to a great start by cleaning her teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.

Most children will have a full set of 20 baby teeth by the time they’re three years old. Baby teeth can arrive in any order with the front bottom teeth often arriving first. Thirty two adult teeth will replace baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 20 years.

Preventing tooth decay

Gently brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – morning and night and encourage him to rinse his mouth with water after meals and snacks.

Try the following routine when brushing your child’s teeth:

  1. Use a small soft toothbrush designed especially for children.
  2. Have her lie comfortably in your lap, on a change table, or on the floor.
  3. Use a tiny (pea-sized) amount of toothpaste with fluoride.
  4. Pull the lip and cheek aside with a clean finger to see better. Angle the bristles of the toothbrush towards the gum and move the brush in gentle circles to clean the outer and inner sides of the teeth. Brush where the teeth and gums meet.
  5. Gently brush your child’s tongue.
  6. Encourage your child to spit the toothpaste out as you clean. She doesn’t need to rinse with water, a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste still in her mouth will help build strong, healthy teeth.

Plan to brush her teeth at times when she is not too tired or hungry. You could make a game of teeth brushing. Sing a silly song, or tell a story about clean teeth.

Your child might want to start helping, letting him hold the toothbrush with you will help him feel he’s part of the action. But your child will need your help and supervision with cleaning teeth until he’s about eight years old.

Keep toothpaste out of reach. Children should not swallow large amounts of toothpaste with fluoride.

Keeping the toothbrush clean

To avoid sharing germs rinse toothbrushes and allow to air-dry after each use. Make sure family members’ toothbrushes don’t touch each other when stored. And no sharing when it comes to toothbrushes! One for each family member is best.

Replace toothbrushes frequently. Some children like to chew on bristles, so these toothbrushes may need to be replaced more often.

If you’re using an electric toothbrush, avoid moving the brush in circles. Keep your hand still, and guide the brush across your child’s teeth and gums.

Choose her food and drink carefully

  • Do not offer her sugary drinks like pop, punch, or slush drinks.
  • If juice is offered, give no more than 125 mL (1/2 cup) of 100% fruit juice a day. If your child drinks juice, offer it at mealtimes only.
  • Offer regular meals and snacks. Avoid grazing (eating and drinking all the time).
  • If she is thirsty, offer only plain water unless it is a regular meal or snack time.

Did you know? Teeth cleaning alone isn’t a guarantee against tooth decay – diet is also important to your child’s oral health.

Visiting the dentist

The Canadian Dental Association recommends that children see a dentist no later than 12 months of age.

Toothpaste and fluoride

Fluoride helps make tooth enamel stronger and better able to resist tooth decay. Some “baby” toothpastes do not contain fluoride. Check the toothpaste ingredients for fluoride. Few cities add fluoride to the drinking water. To find out if your community water has added fluoride or about testing your well water for fluoride, call your local public health office. Most children will get enough fluoride from using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day.


Once her teeth touch each other, is a good idea to begin cleaning between teeth each day using a pik or floss string. She can damage her gums if she flosses on her own, so it’s best if an adult does the flossing.

Did you know? Cleaning and caring for children’s teeth early on sets up good dental habits for life and supports good dental health.

© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links:

HealthLink BC: Dental Care for Your Infant and Toddler 



Last Updated: November 30, 2014