From Toddler to Teen, How Should Your Child’s Oral Care Habits Change Based On Age?

Being a family dental practice that serves parents and caretakers who have children of all ages, we know how many questions there can be about the best way to help kids develop great oral care habits. 

We particularly love it when we can help kids approach dental care with pride and excitement, rather than dread—like Mason (as his mother reported on our Facebook page):

We understand that getting your kids on the right track for a lifetime of good dental habits is no small feat. Parents and caretakers often ask what sort of oral care routine their kids should follow based on their age. How should their habits change based on whether they are toddlers or preschoolers, grade-schoolers, or tweens and teens? Let’s take a quick look at how your child’s oral care habits should change over time: 

Infants & Toddlers:

  • According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, your child’s first dental visit should occur approximately six months after their first tooth shows, and no later than their first birthday. Ask your dentist what’s recommended for proper care of baby teeth, and if they have any tips for helping toddlers learn this lifelong skill.
  • As their teeth continue to grow in, children should visit the dentist at least once every six months. 


  • Your children should be brushing on their own by about the age of 3, although they’ll probably still need constant reminding to do so. Be sure they are developing the habit of brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each time, thoroughly but not too hard. Teach by example, showing them how you move your toothbrush from one part of the mouth to another.
  • You may want to use plaque disclosing tablets from time to time. These chewable tablets color any plaque that remains after brushing, so your child can see how effective their brushing is as they learn to wield a brush on their own. You can find disclosing tablets at most drugstores.
  • Introduce flossing once your child has teeth that are touching. Team up with your dentist on this one to reinforce proper flossing techniques and easy to use flossers.


  • Brushing and flossing should be the norm by this stage, although you may need to experiment with a variety of flossing options to find one the one that works for your child. 
  • If your child is 6 or older and has had cavities, ask your dentist if your child should supplement brushing and flossing with mouthwash. Do not choose a mouthwash that contains alcohol, as it can be harmful if swallowed.

Tweens & Teens:

  • The oral care scene changes when kids become tweens and teens and orthodontics come into play, whether that’s traditional braces or Invisalign.
  • Proper oral care is more important than ever to keep their mouth smelling and feeling fresh, so learning the best techniques to brush orthodontics—including retainers—needs to become part of the routine.
  • Once again, plaque disclosing tablets can be a good thing to use occasionally, because it’s difficult to clean everywhere with orthodontics.
  • Because it may be more challenging to clean orthodontics thoroughly, many kids get too aggressive with brushing if they have braces, which can contribute to early gum loss Have your kids talk to their dentist about the most effective brushing techniques.

How We Can Help

For a quick recap, for the littlest ones oral care should focus on teaching a basic oral care routine by prepping them for brushing. The next years should focus on getting your grade schoolers into the habit of doing things on their own, although you’ll still need to be a watchdog. For tweens and the teenage years, you’ll be reinforcing lifelong habits and incorporating orthodontics care if they have braces or Invisalign. 

At My Family Dentistry, we work hard to make sure our approach is kid-friendly. Our team stays up-to-date on all the latest pediatric dentistry techniques, procedures, and products, so you can rest assured that your child is receiving top-notch, compassionate care from highly trained and experienced dentistry professionals. 

Our pediatric dentistry services include:

  • Comprehensive oral exams 
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Cavity prevention education
  • Fillings and sealants
  • X-rays
  • Invisalign and braces
  • Mouth guards and night guards

We even offer fun and educational activity and coloring books for you to print out and give to your child before their next appointment! We also offer the latest advancements in orthodontic care, including Invisalign.

Dr. Mullins and the entire staff at My Family Dentistry are dedicated to continually providing the most compassionate and comfortable dental care for children of all ages, as well as adults of all ages. To learn more about our passion for family dentistry, read Why Our First Patient & Her Family Are Still Our Patients—And Always Plan To Be

My Family Dentistry is located at 7714 Conner Road in Powell. We are honored to be voted a top “Favorite” dental practice by the Knoxville News Sentinel’s BEST BUSINESSES contest in 2019. 

Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 to learn more about our dental services, including our new patient special, or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to seeing you!

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