Preschool children (3-5 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 preschool aged children 3–5 years old.

Top 10 oral health tips for preschool children

1. Use low fluoride toothpaste from 18 months to six years of age

  • Use a small pea-size amount of toothpaste.
  • Encourage children to spit out toothpaste, do not swallow it or rinse with water. Not rinsing keeps a small amount of fluoride in the mouth which protects teeth.
  • Spitting out can be difficult for small children. You may need to show them how to do it.

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).
  • Gently brush in small circles along the gum line.
  • Choose a toothbrush that is designed for children. It should have a small head and soft bristles.
  • Children will need an adult to help them brush their teeth until about 7 or 8 years of age. Let your child have a go first before you brush their teeth. Give them lots of encouragement.

How to clean your child's teeth guide>>

3. Water is the best drink for preschoolers

  • Preschoolers should drink tap water throughout the day.
  • Most of Victoria’s tap water supply has fluoride in it. Fluoride protects teeth from decay.
  • Remember that shop-bought bottled water usually does not have fluoride in it.
  • If your town water supply does not have fluoride, click here for further information.
  • Plain milk is also a healthy drink for children. Children over two years of age can drink reduced fat milk.

4. Preschoolers don't need fruit juice or other sweet drinks

  • Fruit juice and sweet drinks can increase the risk of tooth decay.
  • Fruit juice with ‘no added sugar’ contains natural sugar which can cause tooth decay.
  • Fresh fruit is a better alternative. It provides the same nutrients, plus fibre and is more filling than juice.
  • 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.
  • Avoid using foods as incentives or rewards for good behaviour.

6. Healthy meals and snacks are important for healthy teeth

  • Enjoy a wide variety of healthy foods every day including fruits, vegetables, grains and cereals, dairy, lean meat, fish and eggs.
  • Fruits and vegetables are an important part of healthy eating.
  • Milk, yoghurt and cheese (and some dairy alternatives) are excellent sources of calcium, which is good for teeth. Choose dairy products that do not have added sugar.
  • Many common foods and snacks have sugar in them. Eating foods with high levels of sugar causes tooth decay.
  • Role model healthy eating, as children learn about food by watching their parents and other family members.

7. Encourage children who are still sucking their fingers, thumbs or using dummies to stop

  • Most children stop sucking their fingers or thumbs between two and four years of age.
  • To help your child to break the habit, try encouragement and distractions. Offer a reward for a period without sucking. You could mark progress on a chart or calendar.
  • Children can easily drift back into old habits. Recognise that it may take several attempts to break the habit completely.

8. Children should have an oral health assessment by 2 years of age

  • By the time children are at preschool, they should have had an oral health assessment. If not, make an appointment with your local dental clinic.
  • Find out more about free or low-cost public dental services available to children.

9. Ask your dentist how often your child should visit

  • Your dentist will discuss your child’s needs and plan how often your child should have their teeth checked.
  • Your child might not always see a dentist – other oral health professionals include Oral Health Therapists, Dental Therapists and Dental Hygienists.
  • Find out more about free or low-cost public dental services available to children.

Who is eligible? >>
Find your nearest community dental clinic >>

10. See your dentist if your child damages their teeth

  • If your child knocks out a baby tooth, do not put it back in place. This can damage the adult tooth underneath the gum. If concerned see your dentist.
  • Always seek immediate advice from your dentist if an adult tooth is knocked out or damaged.