Primary school children (5-12 years)

How should you brush your child's teeth? How often should your child have a dental check-up? How can tooth decay in children be prevented? Read these simple tips for good oral health for primary school children.

Top 10 oral health tips for primary school children (5–12 years)

1. Use a fluoride toothpaste

  • Use a pea sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste from 18 months to six years of age.
  • From six years of age, use a pea sized amount of standard fluoride toothpaste (unless otherwise advised by an oral health professional).
  • Encourage your child to spit out toothpaste after brushing, but not rinse.

2. Brush teeth and along the gum line twice a day

  • Brushing teeth removes plaque (the build-up on teeth) that causes tooth decay.
  • Brush all surfaces of the teeth and gums twice a day (after breakfast and before bed).
  • Brush in small circles along the gum line.
  • Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles.
  • Always brush in a circular motion, cleaning a few teeth at a time.
  • Children will need an adult to help them brush their teeth until about 7 or 8 years of age. It is a good idea for an adult to supervise even after children can physically brush their own teeth.

How to clean your child's teeth guide>>

3. Drink plenty of tap water

  • Water should be the main drink and children should drink plenty of tap water throughout the day.
  • Most of Victoria’s tap water supply has fluoride in it. Fluoride protects teeth from decay.
  • Remember that bottled water from a shop may not have fluoride in it.

4. Children do not need fruit juice or other sweet drinks

  • Fruit juice and sweet drinks can cause tooth decay.
  • Fruit juice with ‘no added sugar’ contains natural sugar which can also cause tooth decay.
  • Sweet drinks include: soft drinks, fruit juice, sports drinks, cordials, tea drinks, fruit drinks and energy drinks.
  • Diet soft drinks contain acids which can also damage teeth.

5. Limit sugary foods

  • Limit foods high in added sugars. Eating foods with high levels of sugar causes tooth decay.
  • Try to avoid sugary foods and snacks in your child’s lunchbox.
  • Foods high in added sugars include jams, lollies, biscuits, cakes, sweet muffins, doughnuts, slices, sweet pastries, chocolate and muesli bars.

6. Healthy meals and snacks are important for healthy teeth

  • Enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods from the five groups every day.
  • Fruits and vegetables are an important part of healthy eating.
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese (and their alternatives) are an excellent source of calcium.
  • Many common foods and snacks have sugar in them. Eating foods with high levels of sugar causes tooth decay.

7. Children should have seen an oral health professional by the time they go to school

  • Having regular check-ups can help to spot problems early. Early stages of tooth decay can be treated.
  • Find out more about free or low-cost public dental services available for school aged children.

8. Talk with your oral health professional about how often you should visit

  • It is important that school children get to know their oral health professional.
  • Your oral health professionalwill discuss your child’s needs and plan how often your child should have their teeth checked.
  • Your child might not always see a dentist – many other ‘oral health professionals’ such as oral health therapists are fully qualified to work on your child’s teeth.

9. See an oral health professional if your child damages their teeth or face

  • If your child knocks out a baby tooth, do not try and put it back in place. Contact your oral health professional immediately.
  • Trying to replace a baby tooth can damage the adult tooth underneath the gum, or cause problems when it is time for the baby tooth to fall out.
  • If a permanent (adult) tooth is knocked out:
    • hold it by the crown (smooth white part) and avoid touching the pointy root.
    • Gently rinse the tooth with milk or saline without touching the root. Do not scrub the tooth.
    • If the person is conscious, you should gently put the tooth back into the socket.
    • Hold the tooth in place by getting the person to gently bite on a handkerchief.
    • Contact your oral health professional immediately.

10. Wear a mouth-guard during contact sports or activities where there is a risk of injury to the face

  • Custom fitted mouth guards provide the best protection.
  • Take the mouth guard to your dental visits to check it still fits well.
  • A mouth guard may need to be replaced as changes occur in the mouth, such as when the permanent teeth come through.

These tips are based on the Oral health messages for the Australian public: Findings of a national consensus workshop (2010) , the Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) and the Evidence-based oral health promotion resource (2011) .

DHSV is a content partner with the Better Health Channel and Raising Children Network. More information about oral health can be found at these websites. Use the search terms ‘teeth’ or ‘dental’.