Healthy Teeth and Gums for Young Children

This information is for parents of children who are 9 months to 3 years old.

Why are baby teeth important?

Healthy baby teeth help your child eat and speak. They also help shape your child's face and guide adult teeth into place.

What can I do to keep my child's teeth and gums healthy?

When your child gets teeth, clean them with a damp washcloth or soft toothbrush every day after meals and at bedtime. It's OK to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when your child is old enough to spit it out.

Why is my child's doctor concerned about my child's teeth?

Healthy teeth and gums are important to your child's overall health. Dental disease is the most common disease of childhood, and it can be easily prevented. Showing your child good habits early in life can help make sure your child has good health in the years to come.

What is fluoride varnish?

Fluoride varnish is a sticky coating that is applied by your child's health care team. It sticks to the teeth easily and wears off after about 24 hours.

Fluoride varnish is quick and easy to apply. It will be painted onto your child's teeth. Only a few drops are needed to coat all of the teeth.

Why is fluoride varnish important?

Fluoride varnish makes the enamel on your child's baby teeth stronger. It protects your child's teeth by stopping and healing early tooth decay. Group Health doctors recommend all children from 9 months to 3 years get a mouth exam and a fluoride varnish application during their routine well-child visits.

What do I need to do after the fluoride varnish treatment?

Will my child still need to take fluoride drops or tablets?

Yes, if your tap water is not fluoridated. Children who are able to chew a fluoride tablet should swish the fluoride around in their mouths before swallowing it. This will give the teeth a fluoride rinse and help to make the outer layer of the teeth stronger.

Is there a cost for this service?

Washington Dental Service provides a benefit for this service. Depending on your coverage agreement, you might have a cost share for this service. There is no payment due at your appointment.

If your child is on Medicaid, this service is covered.

If your child has either dental coverage with another plan or no dental coverage, there is a small cost for this service. You will need to pay this when you check in for the appointment.


Clinical review by David Grossman, MD
Group Health
Reviewed 02/15/2012