How and why to create good teeth cleaning habits in your kids


4 minutes

27 May 2024

Woman brushing child's teeth 

Establishing proper teeth cleaning habits early in your child’s life not only promotes great oral health but also reduces the likelihood of costly and painful dental problems down the road.

We spoke with EGM – Clinical Excellence, HBF Dental, Dr Troy McGowan to learn more about the importance of creating good teeth cleaning habits in kids and get practical tips to help make dental care a seamless part of your child's daily routine.

Why is creating good teeth cleaning habits in kids so important?

"It’s easy to assume baby teeth don’t need as much care as adult teeth, but that’s not the case,” explains Dr Troy. Baby teeth play a crucial role in speech development, maintaining space and guiding the permanent teeth into position1. Any damage to baby teeth from cavities or decay could impact the adult teeth underneath, leading to long-term and expensive oral health issues2.

“Establishing proper teeth cleaning habits in childhood lays the foundation for preventing dental issues such as cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay later in life,” says Dr Troy.

Research has shown that oral health is closely linked to overall well-being, with poor dental hygiene potentially contributing to various systemic conditions including heart disease, and diabetes3.

Tips for creating good teeth cleaning habits in kids:

Lead by example: “Children learn best by observing and imitating their parents,” says Dr Troy. Make brushing and flossing a family activity to emphasise the importance of thoroughness and consistency. "It's important to brush their teeth for them until around the age of eight," Dr. Troy advises. "After that, you can start letting them try on their own. Just be sure to check their work!"

Start early: “Introduce dental care as soon as your child's first tooth emerges. Use a soft, age-appropriate toothbrush and a child formulation fluoride toothpaste to gently clean their teeth and gums,” recommends Dr Troy. As your child grows older, encourage them to take a more active role in their oral hygiene routine. Remember, it’s never too early to start introducing them to flossing which is one of the key habits to learn to reduce the risk of tooth decay.

Make it fun: Dr Troy suggests turning teeth cleaning into an enjoyable activity rather than a chore. “Let your child pick out their toothbrush and toothpaste and consider playing their favourite song or setting a timer for two minutes to make brushing more engaging. You can also buy special liquid and chewable tablets from the dentist or chemist that make the plaque purple or other fun colours that can show kids the spots they are missing with their toothbrush.”

Establish a routine: Consistency is key to forming habits, reminds Dr Troy. “Set designated times for brushing teeth, such as after breakfast and before bedtime, and stick to whatever schedule you set up.” Don’t forget to incorporate flossing into your child’s oral health routine to ensure they are cleaning between the teeth where the brush won’t reach.

Provide positive reinforcement: Praise your child for their efforts in maintaining good oral hygiene. “Use stickers, charts, or other rewards to celebrate milestones and encourage continued participation in teeth cleaning habits,” says Dr Troy.

Teach proper technique: “Emphasise the importance of brushing for two minutes, covering all surfaces of their teeth and using gentle, circular motions. Demonstrate proper flossing technique and supervise until they can do it independently,” explains Dr Troy.

Monitor and supervise: “While autonomy is important, children may still require supervision and assistance with teeth cleaning until they develop the dexterity and coordination to do it effectively on their own. I recommend monitoring their brushing technique and offer guidance as needed,” says Dr Troy.

Electric is best: Electric oscillating head toothbrushes have been shown to clean the teeth more effectively and efficiently than manual toothbrushes. “Their long handles and heads allow parents to get right to the back of kids mouths without too much trouble and because the brush does all the work for you, you don’t need to apply as much force,” says Dr Troy. You can buy kids versions with their favourite cartoon characters and superheroes on them to make teeth cleaning even more fun.

Schedule regular dental check-ups: Alongside daily teeth cleaning, regular visits to the dentist or oral health therapist are essential. “Schedule check-ups every six months for professional cleanings, examinations, and preventive care,” advises Dr Troy. During these visits, your dental professional will evaluate your child’s brushing and flossing techniques, providing additional tips to ensure effective cleaning at home.

How can I cover the cost of dental?

With 100% back on your first scale and clean each year* and no annual limit for preventative dental on select covers, HBF extras cover helps keep you smiling.

Learn more about dental cover

Take care of your smile at HBF Dental

With 8 convenient locations across the greater Perth area, HBF Dental makes it easier than ever to take care of your teeth. Eligible HBF members can enjoy one no gap check-up and clean^, so book your appointment today and keep your smile shinning!

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National Library of Medicine - Evaluation of knowledge and attitude of parents about the importance of maintaining primary dentition - A cross-sectional study

Healthdirect - Dental care for children

Healthdirect - Dental check-up

^For eligible HBF members with extras cover at HBF Dental Centres from 1 May 2023. Check-up and clean include comprehensive examination, scale and clean, fluoride treatment and up to 2 x-rays, as clinically necessary. Limit of one visit per person per calendar year, waiting periods and other exclusions apply. Learn more at

*For eligible members when provided by a Member Plus provider. Subject to annual limits. Waiting periods may apply.


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.