What should I know about caring for my child's teeth?

Teaching your children at a young age to care for their teeth can help them avoid dental problems as they get older. Care of children's teeth and gums should begin even before their teeth break through the gums.

How should I care for my baby's teeth?

Clean your baby's gums after every meal by wiping them with a damp rag or cloth. This step will remove bacteria and food particles from the gums.

Once teeth start to develop, place a very small amount (about the size of a rice grain) of fluoride toothpaste on a damp cloth, and gently clean your baby's teeth.

Don't let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. Babies who sleep with a bottle of milk, formula, fruit juice, or other drink can develop severe tooth decay. If you must put your baby to bed with a bottle, fill it with cool water.

Is fluoride safe for my child?

Yes, fluoride is safe for children. Fluoride protects the teeth and using it early will provide extra protection for developing teeth. Find out if your tap water contains fluoride by calling your local water authority. If your tap water does not contain fluoride, ask your doctor if supplemental fluoride drops would be appropriate for your infant.

How should I care for my toddler's teeth?

Toddler age is a good time to begin teaching your child how to brush his or her own teeth. Let your child imitate how you brush your teeth. You can also try brushing each other's teeth. Help your child brush so you can remove food particles he or she may have missed.

When should I floss my child's teeth?

You should begin flossing your child's teeth as soon as there are two teeth side by side. Floss gently between the teeth once a day. Children usually can begin flossing on their own by about age 10.

How can I prevent my child from getting cavities?

Here are some ways you can maintain the health of your child's teeth and gums:

  • Limit how much candy, sugary foods, and snacks your child eats. Sugary and sticky foods attract bacteria, which can cause cavities.
  • Brush your child's teeth after every meal.
  • Be sure to brush your child's teeth after giving him or her medicine. Medicines such as cough syrups contain sugar, which makes the mouth produce acids. These acids can eat away at the protective top layer of the tooth.
  • Help your child develop good eating habits. Choose a variety of healthy foods for family meals. Be sure to include good sources of calcium such as milk, broccoli, and yogurt.
  • Avoid giving your child sugary drinks such as regular soda pop. Soda pop contains large amounts of sugar, which can also produce cavities.
  • Visit the dentist regularly. Your child should have his or her first dental visit any time from when the first tooth erupts but no later than age 1. Getting regular dental checkups will also help prevent dental problems. (Have X-rays taken only when needed.)

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/05/2019.


  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Frequently Asked Questions. (http://www.aapd.org/resources/frequently_asked_questions/#320) Accessed 7/8/2019.
  • American Dental Association. Baby Teeth. (https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-teeth) Accessed 7/8/2019.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. How do I get my preschooler to let me brush her teeth? (https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/ask-the-pediatrician/Pages/How-do-I-get-my-preschooler-to-let-me-brush-her-teeth.aspx) Accessed 7/8/2019.

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