Begin Dental Care Early!

Tooth decay, more commonly called “cavities”, can happen as soon as teeth start erupting in a child’s mouth (around 7-12 months of age). Proper brushing and knowledgeable parents can help to avoid this though.

To prevent your child from getting tooth decay, brush their teeth twice a day with a small smear of fluoride toothpaste. For children 6 years of age or older, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, and continue to help them brush their teeth until around age 8, when their fine motor skills are more developed and they can do handwriting.

No matter how old we are or whether or not we have teeth, all of us benefit from regular dental check-ups. Research shows a link between the health of our mouth and the health of our body. Keeping your mouth healthy may reduce your risk for heart disease, respiratory disease, diabetes or having a premature and lowbirth weight baby. Adults with dentures are also recommended to have their dentist check the health of their mouth. Your dental team can help you learn how to prevent dental disease and they can also check for oral cancers and other dental problems.

Your child’s first visit to the dentist should be within 6 months of their first tooth erupting or around one year of age. By visiting your dental office regularly, small problems can be caught early, before they become big problems.

Baby teeth play a key role in your child’s development. They are important for your baby’s jaw and speech development, they help guide the permanent teeth into proper position and they help your child chew food.

For children under the age of 4, Early Childhood Tooth Decay is a serious disease that can destroy your child’s teeth. However, it can be prevented. Here are some tips:

Brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a small smear of fluoride toothpaste

Keep your mouth healthy so you don’t pass on tooth decay causing bacteria to your child

Never put baby to bed with a bottle

Lift their lip once per month to check for early signs of tooth decay (chalky, dull white spots or lines)

Around age one teach your baby to drink from a lidless cup. Avoid letting your baby drink from a sipper-cup or bottle often throughout the day.

Take your child to the dentist by around age 1.

The Northern Health Dental programs offer a free, evidence-based fluoride varnish program for young children at risk for Early Childhood Tooth Decay. For more information on oral health, visit your dental office or your local dental health program.

These references also have some very useful information:

Northern Health (
Canadian Dental Association (
Canadian Dental Hygiene Association (

Brenda Matsen
Dental Hygienist
Northern Health