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Good oral health is important for your toddler’s health and wellbeing. Baby teeth are important for eating and talking. Early childhood is the best time for children to learn good oral health habits that will help them become healthy adults. 

What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay in young children is a serious chronic disease. Tooth decay can cause pain which can lead to trouble eating, sleeping, talking and concentrating. Some common causes of tooth decay include: 

  • Not brushing teeth 

  • Frequently eating sugary foods like cakes, biscuits, lollies and chocolate 

  • Drinking sugar-sweetened drinks like fruit juice, cordial and soft drinks 

  • Sucking or sipping on bottles or sippy cups all day with something sweet in it 

The first sign of tooth decay may show as a dull white band on the tooth close to the gum line. If not detected early, it may progress to a yellow, brown or black band on the tooth, and even teeth that look like brownish-black stumps. It is important to check your child’s teeth regularly and make a dental appointment if you see anything unusual. 

How to keep teeth healthy for toddlers

Tooth brushing and dental check ups 
  • From 18 months, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a small amount of low-fluoride toothpaste. 

  • Make tooth brushing fun! Play a song, use a timer or tooth brushing app. 

  • Check your child’s teeth regularly to look for any changes 

  • Have regular dental check-ups with your family dentist 

Healthy eating 
  • Teach your baby to drink from a cup, starting at around 6 months of age  

  • Drink water 

  • Encourage healthy snacks like cheese, fresh fruit, vegetable sticks and yoghurt. Save sweet snacks and drinks for special occasions. 

Dummies and thumb/finger sucking 
  • Dummy use and finger sucking by a baby is not usually a problem. It may be a concern if this habit is not broken by the time your child is 4-5 years old. 

  • Never dip dummies in anything sweet 

  • Always clean dummies with water 

General dental care is free for all children under 18 years of age in NSW public dental services. You can use the Oral Health Contact Centre Search to find the contact details for your local public dental service. 


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