Children’s Oral Health – a basic overview of why it’s important

Author: Michael J. Pink DDS, Senior Dental Consultant, Sun Life Financial


We can all agree it isn’t easy to get kids to brush and floss. You might even wonder if it really matters when it comes to their primary or baby teeth since they aren’t permanent and will eventually fall out. I can tell you that it does.

Research shows that for children aged 2 to 8 with primary teeth, 37% have had dental caries (cavities) and 14% have untreated tooth decay.1 The numbers are lower for children aged 6-11 with permanent teeth, 21% of children had dental caries and 6% have untreated tooth decay.1 Cavities or dental caries are when a tooth starts to decay by breaking down tooth enamel and begins to develop a hole. That hole will continue to grow if the decay isn’t removed and the hole filled.

Untreated cavities can cause many issues for young children even in their baby teeth. These issues include infection of the teeth and gums, tooth loss and pain. How can parents help? There are many ways you can help your kids.

Infant care:

  • As soon as your baby starts getting teeth, you should use a baby toothbrush with a tiny amount of toothpaste twice a day
  • Once multiple teeth have grown in you can start flossing between them daily
  • The American Dental Association recommends having your baby see a dentist by the time they turn one2

Child care:

  • Teach your child to brush twice a day and floss once a day
  • Visit the dentist every six months for check-ups
  • Minimize the amount of sugary drinks and sodas
  • Provide them with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Have dental sealants applied to their permanent molars – many dental insurance plans will cover this service

One of the most important influences a parent has is having good oral care for themselves and letting your kids see it. Consider cleaning and flossing your teeth when they are doing their teeth so that they know it is a lifetime habit that will make a difference.

1 Dental Caries and Sealant Prevalence in Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2011–2012. NCHS Data Brief No. 191, March 2015.

2 (accessed 2/5/19)

In all states, except New York, group insurance policies are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA). In New York, group insurance policies are issued by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI).

SLPC 29423 02/19 (exp. 01/21)