Start Early on the Road to Good Dental Health

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February is National Children’s Dental Health Month so with help from our friends at CHLA, we’re covering the brushing basics and more. Follow the tips below to help get your child started on the right track to good dental health. Healthy, happy smiles are always in style!

Start Early on the Road to Good Dental Health

In honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, I decided to write a blog with some helpful and up-to-date advice about keeping your family’s teeth healthy. The benefits of doing this right and starting early will not only mean healthier mouths and teeth, but better health in general throughout your lives. To learn more about pediatric dentists and how they care for kids, I visited the Dental Clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and spoke with John Groper, DDS, and his team.


Did you know?

  • Early childhood caries (ECC), or cavities, is the No. 1 chronic infectious disease affecting children in the U.S.
  • Undetected tooth decay can lead to infection, tooth loss and other more serious health problems both in children and adults.
  • A child should see the dentist for their first visit as early as 6 months of age.
  • Pediatric dentists have special training after dental school to learn how to work specifically with children’s oral health.
  • Tooth decay is almost always preventable.

The first step in tending to your children’s dental health is locating a pediatric dentist to care for their teeth. Pediatric dentists have two to three years of extra training beyond dental school to learn specifically how to care for the oral health of children, and how to work with their special needs.

Groper recommends taking children for their first dental visit when they are about 6 months old, or when their first tooth appears. The purpose of this is to establish a “dental home,” a sort of home base for children’s current and future dental care.

During this visit, the dentist will talk about the best way to brush your child’s teeth, and will discuss diet and other issues that can lead to ECC and how to prevent them. During the course of these early visits, the dentist may introduce you to different preventive treatments, such as fluoride or sealant for the teeth. The dentist will make a recommendation about when to return for another appointment, but usually it is at least twice a year to develop a good relationship and good dental habits.

A good teeth brushing routine should start early and continue for a lifetime. It is just as important for the adults in the home to have healthy dental habits as it is the children. It surprised me to find out that if an adult has cavity-causing germs in his or her mouth due to poor dental practices and shares those germs through kissing or sharing eating utensils with a child, the child may be more prone to developing cavities as the germs are passed along.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends brushing for two minutes twice a day—once in the morning after breakfast and again at night before bed. This is true for both adults and children. You may be thinking, as I did, how can I do this or get my child to brush for two whole minutes?

Helpful brushing tips:

  • Find a song that is approximately two minutes in length and play it during brushing.
  • Get a toothbrush that lights up at different intervals over two minutes, telling your child how long to brush.
  • Get a two minute hourglass timer with falling sand (this is the one that I used as a child). Have your child brush as the sand falls and when it stops, time is up. There are also great smartphone apps.

All of the above items can be found on the internet, your smartphone app store, or most drug stores.

The tips in this blog give simple yet important advice about how to get your child started on the right track to good teeth and good health that can last a lifetime. Early detection and prevention of ECC is the most important thing to remember about dental health, according to Dr. Groper. By starting early and making regular dental visits a habit, your child will be off to the best start possible!

Thank you to John Groper, DDS, and the CHLA Dental Clinic for all of the shared knowledge and expertise and for making a valuable contribution to the writing of this blog.

~Tere Jones, RN, CPN

Tere has been working in pediatric nursing for more than 20 years, primarily at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Currently, she’s a clinical care coordinator on a medical/surgical unit.

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.


  1. michelle

    My 1.5 yr old fights teeth brushing, but didn’t always, this is just recently.I sing, i make silly faces, open my mouth wide and make noises, he screams! i let him do it himself to start although now his new thing is shaking his head no when he sees the toothbrush. So it ends up him screaming and me shoving the toothbrush in there and getting what i can. Suggestions!! PLEASE!! 🙂

  2. Been there. My girl is a little over 2.5 and most times is agreeable. Here are things that helped me in those difficult moments: having various colors/character toothbrushes, let him choose for that tooth brushing. Get a mirror so he can see himself do it. Brush your teeth at the same time. Tom’s of main toddler paste was a good flavor. Make the toothbrushes have a voice … Sounds silly but she would crack up. One had a southern/old west accent, another was British. They would ask to clean her teeth, etc. And of course we would talk about stinky breath and how yucky it is. Hope this helps momma!

  3. michelle

    THANK YOU HOLLY!!! 🙂 I have plain toothbrushes, so fun toothbrush shopping we shall go!! Also, it’s been a while but i’ll start brushing up on my accents! 🙂

  4. the elmo brush your teeth song is what saved my life when it comes to brushing my toddlers teeth lol

  5. chrisvon

    Early childhood dental care is important. This is what parents do. Thanks for simple tips. It’s not an easy job but its worth it. I let my kids visit their dentist too. I make sure to find staff and dentist who are kids friendly and knows how to deal with kids inside the dental clinic. I’m happy to find them here alexandria va dentist. They provide excellent dental health care.

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