Oral Health

Begins Before Your Baby’s First Tooth

Oral health is a key part of your child’s overall well-being.

Research shows that nearly 30% of children age 2-5 have dental disease in the United States. By the time children are 5 or 6, a whopping 51% enter school with tooth decay.

Families and caregivers can learn how to keep children’s teeth healthy by understanding good oral hygiene. When a young child experiences dental problems, their self-esteem, attention span, and social development can be impacted. Avoid these complications by setting good dental habits from the start!

Click the menu items below for some tips and resources to keep your child’s smile shining bright!

Did you know that FIRST 5 Santa Clara County invests in oral health screenings, along with vision and hearing screenings? Watch the video above to learn more about health screenings.

Oral Health Tips For All Stages of Your Child’s Life!

  • PRENATAL: When you’re pregnant, you may be more prone to gum disease and cavities, which can affect your baby’s health. Make sure to visit a dentist every 6 months, brush twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily.
  • AGES 0-1: Good oral health starts before the first tooth appears!  Wipe your newborn’s gums with a clean, damp cloth at least once a day, and if possible, after ever meal. When the first tooth appears, typically between 4 and 7 months, begin brushing with a small toothbrush and unfluoridated toothpaste. Visit a dentist once the first tooth appears and then every 6 months after that.
  • AGES 2-5: Make sure your child is visits a dentist every 6 months, brushes twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste, and flosses daily. When your child is able to understand how to spit out toothpaste, typically between the ages of 2 and 3, start using a pea-sized amount.
  • ALL AGES: Don’t forget to make brushing fun! Read tips on how to help make dental hygiene fun below!

Download our oral health flier to find brushing tips by age.

Spanish  |  English

Make brushing teeth a family affair! Your children learn from you, so help set a good example brushing your teeth with them.

Help Make Brushing Fun With These Tips!

  • GO SHOPPING: Let children help choose their own toothbrush. They can pick one that has a favorite color or character.
  • IT’S ALL ABOUT FLAVOR: Let children help choose toothpaste. They can pick their favorite flavor.
  • HELP PASS THE TIME: Read books, play your child’s favorite song, or watch fun videos. Click here for 7 toothbrushing tunes that kids (and parents) will love and check out the Potter The Otter Book here.
  • REWARD GOOD BEHAVIOR: Think of what motivates your child. If it’s stickers, make a reward chart and let them add one every time he brushes. If they are a reader, let them pick out the bedtime story. Whatever it is—get creative!
  • STICK TO A ROUTINE: The more second nature brushing becomes, the easier it will be to make sure your child is brushing twice a day for two minutes!

Take a Trip to the Dentist

  • Your child should visit the dentist by age 1, or when their first tooth comes in.
  • Schedule visits in the morning, when your child is less likely to be fussy.
  • Plan a fun activity around your child’s dentist visit so they can associate the dentist’s office with something positive.
  • Don’t forget to make follow up appointments every 6 months, or as often as your dentist recommends.

FIRST 5 supports free and low-cost dental services for children, like those provided by the Children’s Dental Group.  These three centers offer high-quality care in a fun, kid-friendly environment that welcomes all children and families.

Potter the Otter’s First Trip To The Dentist Book

Help your child understand what it means to go to the dentist as Potter and his friends learn about healthy habits that keep their smiles shining bright! “Potter the Otter Visits the Dentist” trilingual (English, Spanish, and Vietnamese) book is available at pottertheotter.com and helps explain to children the importance of a healthy smile. Click below to order your copy! You may also view the digital book here.


Brush up on tips to keep your child’s teeth healthy! In this podcast, we sit down with the President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to talk about ways to keep your child’s smile shining bright. Nearly 30% of American children between the ages of 2-5 have dental disease. Dr. Rhea Haugseth, President of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, explains why.

Interesting Facts To Know About Your Child’s Teeth

  • Your baby is born with 20 teeth below the gums, and they usually start coming through between 6 months and a year. Most children have their full set of teeth by 3 years old. Click here to learn more about what teeth are coming through and when.
  • Teething can be a rite of passage for babies and parents alike. As their teeth come in, some babies may become fussy, sleepless and irritable, lose their appetite or drool more than usual. Diarrhea, rashes and a fever are not caused by teething. If your baby has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.
  • It doesn’t take much to clean your child’s teeth. Until you’re confident that your child can brush on his or her own, continue to brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush. If your child is 3 or younger, use a smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). For children 3 or older, a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste will do.
  • Baby bottle tooth decay most often occurs in the upper front teeth (but other teeth may also be affected). Frequent, prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to drinks that contain sugar can cause tooth decay. This can happen when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby

Information Source: American Dental Association