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Preschool age children

Primary teeth hygiene

Dental decay is now rarer in children because habits have changed. This evolution happened because the importance of prevention has been put in the forefront, starting at home with good eating habits and daily toothbrushing.

As a parent, you play a leading role. On this page, you will find the necessary information to take good care of the primary teeth, called milk teeth, of your preschool age, or younger, child.

Teeth development

The 20 primary teeth will have appeared before your child reaches the age of 2 or 3. Consult this chart indicating the age at which primary teeth should erupt in most children to learn more and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any worries.

If your child is teething and it seems painful, you can:

  • Rub the gums with your finger;
  • Rub the gums with the back of a cold spoon;
  • If the pain is persistent, over-the-counter medication can be recommended to calm the pain.

Do not:

  • Use the type of painkilling medication that you rub on your child’s gums because it can be swallowed;
  • Give your child a teething biscuit. They can contain added or hidden sugar;
  • Underestimate fever. Fever and illness are not symptoms of teeth eruption;

If your child has fever, talk to a doctor.

Pacifiers and thumb sucking

Sucking is natural in a baby. This is how they relax and are fed. When a child gets older, around 2 or 3, the need to suck on something will diminish. If it is not the case, a pacifier is recommended over thumb sucking. This method is preferred because you can control when and how your child uses a pacifier, not their thumb. Never put sugar, honey or syrup on a pacifier; it can create dental decay.

Your child should stop using a pacifier before their permanent teeth erupt, around the age of 5. If a child keeps sucking on their thumb or a pacifier after the first permanent teeth come out, teeth development could be affected.

Teeth cleaning

Young children cannot clean their teeth alone.

Parents must:

  • Do it for them when they are very young;
  • Do it with them as they get older.

You should begin cleaning your child’s teeth before they erupt. It builds an habit in you and your child and creates a clean environment for the first teeth.

The goal is to clean all parts of the gums and the teeth. Here is how you can achieve it:

  • Lay your baby in a comfortable position.
  • Make sure you can see into your baby's mouth.
  • Use a soft baby brush or wrap your finger in a clean, damp washcloth. Then, brush or wipe your baby's gums and teeth.
  • Do not use toothpaste until your child has teeth.

The older your child gets, the more it will move around during teeth cleaning. Here is how you can proceed:

  • Lay your child down on a comfortable surface (a bed, for instance);
  • Place yourself behind your child, like at the dentist;
  • Lean their head back, against your thighs. This way, you will be able to control their movements and brush their upper and lower teeth;
  • Take a children’s toothbrush and clean their teeth the same way you brush yours;
  • Once the child has learned to spit, use a very small quantity of fluorinated toothpaste (just enough to colour the bristles).

A child normally wants to brush their teeth alone. Do not discourage them, but make sure they do it correctly. Tell them you still want to help.

Toothbrushing technique:

  • Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Point the bristles to where the gums and teeth meet.
  • Use gentle circles. Do not scrub. Clean every surface of every tooth. For the front teeth, use the "toe" or front part of the brush.
  • Finally, be gentle. You can hurt the gums by brushing too hard.


A small mouth requires a small toothbrush. Bristles should be soft and rounded. You will have to purchase a new toothbrush every three to four months.

Children can be hard on toothbrushes. If the bristles get bent or worn down, they will not do a good job, and may hurt your child's gums.


Make sure the toothpaste has fluoride. Check the box or tube for the symbol of the Canadian Dental Association as it means that the toothpaste contains fluoride.

Use only a bit of toothpaste and make sure your child spits it out. It is usually not recommended to use fluorinated toothpaste on children under the age of 3 because they are more inclined to swallow it.

Dental floss

A toothbrush does not reach between the teeth and where the teeth and gums meet. To get there, you need to use dental floss. Make sure your child gets used to flossing.

Here is how to floss:
  1. Take a piece of floss about as long as your child's arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches between the hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth;
  2. Slide the floss between the teeth and wrap it into a "C" shape. It should wrap around the base of the tooth, where the tooth meets the gum;
  3. Wipe the tooth from bottom to top 2 or 3 times or more;
  4. Be sure you floss both sides of each tooth, and don't forget the backs of the last molars;
  5. Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth;
  6. Brush the teeth after flossing.

Does my child need to brush their teeth before going to bed?

Yes. If you don't get rid of the bacteria and sugars that cause cavities, they have all night to do their dirty work. Plus, when your child is asleep, he or she does not produce as much saliva, which keeps the mouth clean. So brushing at bedtime is very important.