Children/Adolescents – General Information About Oral Health Care

Good oral health is important no matter what your age. Tooth decay is a leading cause of poor oral health in children and adolescent. Tooth decay is caused by plaque (a sticky film of germs and left-over food) that coats the teeth. If not brushed away, plaque uses the sugars in foods and drinks to make acid. Over time, this acid rots the tooth away, causing a hole. Tooth decay can cause pain and infection if untreated. Plaque also causes bad breath and red or bleeding gums, called gingivitis.

Contact us on 1300 300 850 to make an appointment for a dental check-up as soon as possible if you think your child has tooth decay or another problem with their mouth.

Oral Health Tips

  • Brush morning and night with a small (pea sized) amount of fluoride-toothpaste.
  • Spit, don’t rinse to avoid rinsing away the protective benefits of fluoride.
  • Children need help brushing from an adult until they are around 8 years old.
  • Avoid using a medium or hard toothbrush as this may damage tooth enamel and gums.
  • Skipping toothbrushing causes plaque to build-up on teeth. This causes bad breath and can make the teeth appear yellow.

Under 18 months

Don’t use toothpaste, unless advised by a dental practitioner. Wet the toothbrush with water.

From 18 months to 5 years

Use a low-fluoride toothpaste. This is sometimes called children’s toothpaste and has half the fluoride concentration of regular strength toothpaste.

6 years and older

Use a regular strength fluoride toothpaste. Look for a toothpaste that has at least 1000 parts per million fluoride concentration.

Snack ideas that are also good for teeth are:

  • A piece of fruit
  • Rice-cakes, cheese, sugar-free peanut butter or crackers with hummus
  • A boiled egg
  • Air-popped popcorn or nuts
  • Small tub of natural yoghurt
  • Add cucumber or mint to water instead of lemon
  • Plain water contains no sugar and is the best drink for healthy teeth.
  • Water that contains fluoride has the added benefit of helping prevent decay. To find out if your community has water fluoridation ask your local council or dental practitioner.
  • Limit drinks that contain added sugars (e.g. juice, cordial, soft drink, sports drinks) as these cause tooth decay.
  • Sport is a great way to keep children active. A mouthguard can minimise injuries to teeth, the jaw and surrounding tissue.
  • Make sure teeth and gums are protected by a properly fitting mouthguard if your child plays contact sport.
  • Mouthguards that are custom made by a dental practitioner fit the mouth more accurately.
  • Children should have their first dental check-up before their second birthday
  • Children at a higher risk of oral health problems may need more frequent check-ups.
  • Do not wait until there is a problem. Regular dental check-ups are important to keep teeth, gums and mouth healthy.

Frequently asked questions

  • Try to make toothbrushing a positive experience. This may take patience and time to build into a positive routine for your child. Try one of the following tips for fussy brushers:
    • Try toothbrushing when your child is relaxed. If your child becomes upset or frustrated with brushing, try again at a later time.
    • Make brushing part of the daily routine. Brushing before bed is important to protect teeth from decay overnight.
    • Use positive reinforcements to encourage brushing. Try a brushing chart and stickers as reward or brush along to your child’s favourite song.  Playing the Toothbrushing Song from Queensland Health can help make toothbrushing a fun event for your child.
    • Be a role model – let children see that brushing and flossing are part of your routine and encourage them to join in.
    • As your child gets older, allow them to practice brushing first, but ensure an adult follows up to reach the areas that might be missed.
  • Yes, but it is important to use the right technique and recommended toothpaste.  Your dental practitioner will be able to give you appropriate advice.
  • Children need to be supervised by an adult when using an electric toothbrush to ensure they clean all surfaces of their teeth.


  • National Oral Health Promotion Clearinghouse and Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health (2020), ‘Guidelines for use of fluorides in Australia: update 2019’, Australian Dental Journal, vol 0., p.1-9, doi: 10.1111/adj.12742
  • Queensland Health (1996-2020), Oral Health, Keep a healthy smile, ‘Babies and toddlers (0-2years)’,
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