Good Dental Hygiene Habits For Kids

By Dr. Almy, Fredericksburg Orthodontics December 5, 2019

You want your child's teeth to last all of his life, so it is important to teach him or her good dental habits. As your child grows, caring for his teeth will become a natural part of his daily routine. Good oral hygiene habits can limit or prevent problems such as cavities, gum disease and other dental issues. The best way to help your child form these habits is to start early, even before he is able to care for his own teeth. Gradually you can help him learn to care for his teeth all by himself.

Brush and floss

Fredericksburg Orthodontics and Dr. Almy want you to feel comfortable caring your child's teeth. Start when you notice the first tooth has erupted. For children ages 3 or younger, use a soft bristled toothbrush designed for children with a little dab of toothpaste, no larger than a grain of rice. For children ages 3 or older, use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a pea. Start using a toothpaste containing fluoride once the child is able to expectorate. Continue to brush your child's teeth twice daily using small, circular motions until he is ready to do it on his own. There are many fun products on the market, so let your child help choose his toothpaste or toothbrush. Usually, by age 6 or 7, children are able to brush properly on their own, although they probably still need reminders and supervision.

When your child gets more teeth, especially when the teeth begin to fit closely together, it's time to start flossing. Move the floss gently back and forth to remove trapped debris. Be careful not to yank the floss hard against the gums and ask your child to let you know if the flossing is uncomfortable. This is also when you may find out your child needs to have their first visit to an orthodontist to check their bite, jaw and development. 

Regular dental visits

It’s important to take your child to the dentist after the first tooth appears, but no later than her first birthday.  Thereafter, a child should visit the dentist twice a year for routine checkups and cleaning. These visits also give you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about your child's dental care.  Remember that baby teeth are not only the first set of teeth, but are also saving places for the adult teeth to come later. Some adults are nervous about visits to the dentist, however it is important to lead by example. If you are calm, your demeanor has a positive effect on your child's behavior during the visit.

Habits to avoid

Eating foods loaded with sugar, candy (particularly sticky or gummy candy) or juices can cause cavities. This is also true of sweetened liquid medicines. Have your child brush his teeth or rinse his mouth after consuming these items. 

Teach your child to avoid chewing on ice. It is an easy habit to fall into, but it can destroy tooth enamel, leaving your teeth susceptible to decay. Chewing ice can also crack or chip teeth.

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet should include options from all the major food groups. Offer a well-balanced diet that limits starchy and sugary foods, as these can lead to tooth decay. Make sure to include calcium for strong teeth. Encourage your child to drink water instead of soda or juice. Keep your pantry stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables to encourage "healthy snacks." Some of these, such as bananas and raisins, contain concentrated sugar so your child should brush after eating them. In general, the frequency of snacking is more important than the amount eaten, because unless your child brushes after each snack, the food leads to tooth decay.


In addition to caring for your child's teeth, model good dental hygiene on a daily basis. Brush together twice a day. Don't treat it as a chore, but rather have fun with it.  The habits you create today will last a lifetime!

About the Author: 

Dr. Diana Almy is a board certified orthodontist who has served the Fredericksburg area since 2005. She was the valedictorian of her undergraduate class and received her Doctor of Dental Surgery from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry and Master of Science from VCU School of Dentistry Certificate in Orthodontics. Based on her skill and expertise with the teeth straightening system, Dr. Diana Almy is a Diamond+ Invisalign® Provider. She is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics.  Visit their website for more information: