Dental care - child

Proper care of your child’s teeth and gums includes brushing and rinsing, examinations by dentists, and any necessary treatments (use of fluoride, extractions, fillings, or orthodontics).


Healthy teeth and gums are essential to your child’s overall good health. If the child’s teeth develop diseases or become injured, or don’t develop properly, this can result in poor nutrition, painful and dangerous infections, problems with speech development, and problems with self image.


Even though newborns and infants do not have teeth, it is important to take care of their mouth and gums. Follow these tips:

  • Use a damp washcloth to wipe your infant’s gums after each meal.  
  • DO NOT put your infant or young child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or sugar water. Use only water for bedtime bottles.  
  • Begin using a soft toothbrush instead of a washcloth to clean your child’s teeth as soon as his first tooth shows (usually between 5-8 months of age).  
  • Ask your pediatrician if your infant needs fluoride added to his diet.


  • Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be between the time the first tooth appears (5-8 months) and the time when all the primary teeth are visible (before 2 1/2 years).  
  • Many dentists recommend a “trial” visit to expose the child to the sights, sounds, smells, and feel of the office before the actual examination.  
  • Children who are accustomed to having their gums wiped and teeth brushed every day will be more comfortable going to the dentist.


  • The child’s teeth and gums should be brushed at least twice each day and especially before bed.  
  • Take your child to a dentist every 6 months. Let the dentist know if your child thumb sucks or breathes through the mouth.  
  • Teach your child how to play safe and what to do if a tooth is broken or knocked out.  
  • When your child gets permanent teeth, he or she should begin flossing each evening before bed.  
  • When the child reaches the teens, braces or extractions may be needed to prevent long-term problems.

If your child loses an adult (permanent) tooth during a fall or other injury, see broken or knocked out tooth for first aid instructions. If you act quickly, you can often save the tooth.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 7, 2012
by Sharon M. Smith, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.