Dental exams

Dental exams

Your child’s primary (baby) teeth will start to come in around 6 months old. They should have a full set of baby teeth by age 3.

Around age 6, the first of the baby teeth will start to fall out and the permanent (adult) teeth will start to come in.

Make regular dental appointments for cleanings and checkups starting at age 3 years or earlier if there are questions or concerns. Your child may need fluoride supplements if you have well water. Visiting the dentist twice a year will prevent problems such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Other tips for making sure your child’s teeth and gums are healthy include the following.

  • Start “brushing” your baby’s teeth when their first tooth appears. Wipe their gums with a clean cloth and water every day. When more teeth come in, use a clean cloth or a soft toothbrush and water.
  • Start to floss your child’s teeth as soon as two teeth come in next to each other.
  • Do not put milk, formula, juices or other sugary drinks in your baby’s bottle at bedtime or naptime. If your baby needs a bottle, give them water. As your baby sleeps, and their mouth saliva is reduced, the sugary drinks increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • You can use toothpaste when your child turns 12 months old. Brush your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush when they wake up and before they go to bed. You should use a small amount (size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste with fluoride. Let your child play with the toothbrush after brushing.
  • At age 5, teach your child to brush their teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush when they wake up and before they go to bed. Your child should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste with fluoride. Teach your child to floss their teeth as well. An adult should help your child with brushing teeth.
  • Make sure your child spits the toothpaste out, not swallows it. Swallowing too much toothpaste with fluoride can cause white spots on the permanent teeth.
  • Brush your child’s teeth twice a day until they can handle the toothbrush alone (around age 6 to 7).
  • Give your child regular, healthful meals and limit snacking between meals. Offer healthful snacks.
  • If your child is in sports (such as hockey), make sure they wear a proper mouth guard.

When your child’s first tooth comes in, you can buy a baby-sized toothbrush (with plastic bristles). Let your child put it in their mouth to start getting used to idea of brushing. The toothbrush may also feel good on their gums, especially if other teeth are about to come in (erupt).

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022