Skip to Content

View Additional Content In This Section

Dental Care: 6 Years to 16 Years

Topic Overview

By now your child has been seeing a dentist regularly for years. Continue with your usual schedule. If for some reason your child has not yet seen a dentist, make an appointment for an exam.

More and more of the responsibility for good dental habits belongs to your child now.

What your child can do

  • Your child should be brushing his or her own teeth morning and night with a soft toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Watch to be sure he or she is doing a good job brushing.
  • Flossing is an important part of good dental health, but it can be a challenging task for a child to master. Talk with your dentist about the right technique to teach your child how to floss. Plastic flossing tools may help you and your child.
  • If your child has cavities, your dentist may recommend the use of a mouthwash that contains fluoride. But teach your child not to swallow it, because fluoride can be toxic in large amounts.
  • Use disclosing tablets from time to time to see whether any plaque is left on your child's teeth after brushing. Disclosing tablets are chewable and will color any plaque left on the teeth after the child brushes. You can buy these at most drugstores.

What you and your dentist can do

  • After your child's permanent teeth begin to appear, talk with your dentist about having dental sealant placed on the molars. Sealants are made of hard plastic and protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth from decay.
  • Discuss your child's fluoride needs with your dentist if your local water supply does not contain enough fluoride. To find out, call your local water company or health department. If you have your own well, have your water checked to determine whether your family needs fluoride from other sources. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.
  • Good nutrition is important for building and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Give your child nutritious foods to maintain healthy gums, develop strong teeth, and avoid tooth decay. These include whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar and processed carbohydrates, such as pastries, pasta, and white bread.
  • Keep your child away from cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco smoke may contribute to the development of tooth decay and gum disease.1 Teach your child about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke.
  • Children play hard, sometimes hard enough to knock out or break a tooth. Learn how to prevent injuries to teeth and what to do in a dental emergency. For more information, see the topic Mouth and Dental Injuries.

References

Citations

  1. American Dental Association (2009). ADA policy on cigarettes and other tobacco products . Available online: http://www.ada.org/news/929.aspx.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised January 7, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

2650 Siskiyou Blvd., Medford, OR 97504

541-789-7000