Tooth decay is on the rise in Australia, particularly among children. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), 42% of children aged 5-10 years have experienced tooth decay in their primary (‘baby’) teeth.

Yet a recent National Child Health Poll conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital found that almost one in three (31%) pre-schoolers have never visited a dentist and two in five pre-schoolers (39%) and more than half (58%) of infants and toddlers don’t have their teeth brushed twice a day.

While they will eventually be replaced, decayed baby teeth can damage the permanent teeth underneath and losing a tooth because of decay can cause crowding problems when their adult teeth come through.
For these reasons, it’s important that dental care starts early.

Tooth Care Tips

Here’s what you need to know when it comes to caring for your little one’s teeth:

  • Start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as they appear, usually around 6 to 9 months.
  • For a baby, wipe their teeth with a soft cloth or brush with a soft child-size toothbrush and water. From 18 months, a low fluoride toothpaste can be used but encourage your child to spit this out after brushing.
  • Gently brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion.
  • Help your child clean their teeth until they are old enough to do this for themselves, usually around the age of 7-8 years. After this, most children will still need supervision.
  • Build a regular brushing routine – twice per day, after meals and before bed. Try to make it fun by creating a brushing game or playing their favourite song.
  • Children also need to floss. This should begin as soon as your child has two teeth that are in contact with each other. Most children will need supervision with flossing until they are about 10 years.
  • Take your child to the dentist for regular check-ups from the age of one year, or within 6 months of their first tooth appearing.
  • A healthy diet is important for strong teeth and prevention of tooth decay. Foods such as lollies, sweet biscuits, and soft drinks should be avoided, particularly grazing on these between meals.

According to the AIHW, 1 in 25 Australians over the age of 15 years have no natural teeth. Fortunately, this can largely be prevented. Good dental care and regular check-ups with a dentist will help to prevent costly and painful problems in the future. Starting early is important.

For more information:
Find out more about dental care for children on the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby website

Tips on how to brush your child’s teeth

If the cost of dental care is a problem, you can check whether your child may be eligible for cover through Medicare on the Child Dental Benefits Schedule website.


Royal Children’s Hospital Child Health Poll
AIHW Dental & Oral Care
Health Care Direct: Dental Care for Children
Pregnancy Baby Birth
Australian Dental Association
Raising Children: Toddler’s Dental Care

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