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Children’s Dental Health
Father helping daughter brush teeth

Experts recommend a child’s first visit to the dentist should be by age 1 or within six months of when the first tooth appears. Children’s dental health is a key initiative of ODH’s Oral Health Program, which strives to promote and improve the oral health of all Ohioans.

First Dental Visit

Primary (baby) teeth help a child chew properly and eat nutritious foods; help a child learn to speak normally; hold space for the permanent (adult) teeth; and help a child have a good smile. Thus, it’s very important to take measures to ensure their teeth are clean and healthy.

During the first dental visit, the dental hygienist or dentist can show you how to clean your child’s teeth and talk about ways to prevent cavities, such as using fluoride and limiting sugar in the diet. Preventing dental problems when your child is young will save time, money and tooth complications as your child gets older.


Fluoride helps prevent cavities in people of all ages, but itʼs especially important in helping children. Fortunately, most people in Ohio get their water from a public water system which contains fluoride. Community water fluoridation is said to be one of the ten great public health achievements of our time. Learn more about the benefits of water fluoridation here.

Fluoride varnish is one of the easiest ways to prevent tooth decay and keep small cavities from getting bigger. Itʼs painted on the teeth and hardens as soon as saliva touches it, and can be applied as soon as babies get their first teeth. You can get fluoride varnish applied to your childʼs teeth at the dental office, or at the doctorʼs office during routine check-ups. Learn more about fluoride varnish here.

Using toothpaste with fluoride is another important way to prevent cavities, but remember to use the right amount. Follow these tips:

  • Use a smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste for children under 3.

  • Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste for children 3 to 5.

  • Help your child brush until they are 7-8.

  • Brush for two minutes, two times a day, reaching all teeth.

Dental Sealants

A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the biting surface of a back tooth to prevent tooth decay. Sealants block food and decay-causing germs from going into the narrow grooves of the teeth where decay is most likely to occur. Dental sealants prevent the most common type of tooth decay seen in school-aged children today. Your child can get dental sealants at the dental office or maybe at school. ODH funds programs that provide dental sealants to children at schools that serve children from lower-income families.

Contact the ODH Oral Health Program at BCFHS@odh.ohio.gov for more information.