​​​​​​​​​​To ensure health and wellbeing into adulthood, good oral health habits need to start early and maintained during childhood and adolescence. Children with dental decay can have trouble eating, sleeping and focusing in school. Dental decay can also change how your child’s teeth look, and may make it hard for them to socialise.

Adolescence may be a time where there is an increased drinking of soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, and snacking on sugary foods. Habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking may occur. These can increase the risk of dental decay and gum disease. Teenagers may also have poor tooth brushing habits. Only around 50% of teenagers brush their teeth twice a day.

How to keep mouth, teeth and gums healthy for children and young people

For everyday messages on how to keep your mouth healthy see related page: Healthy habits for a Healthy Mouth.

Tooth brushing

  • Children need to brush their teeth, gums and tongue twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.
  • Spit out after brushing. Do not rinse with water, because a small amount of fluoride toothpaste left around the teeth will help protect them.
  • Parents/carers need to help with tooth brushing until their child is about 8 years of age.
  • For more information see How to Brush

Healthy eating

  • Offer healthy snacks like cheese, vegetable sticks, fresh fruit, low fat yogurt.
  • Have treats like sweet snacks and drinks for special occasions only.

Drink water

  • Encourage everyone in the family to drink water, especially fluoridated tap water. It’s free and helps protect teeth from dental decay.
  • Avoid giving your children soft drinks, sports drinks or energy drinks as they can cause dental decay.
  • Discourage teenagers and young people from drinking soft drinks, sports drinks and energy drinks as this will cause dental decay.

Dental check up

  • Children should have regular dental checks as advised by your dental practitioner.
  • All children under 18 years of age who are NSW residents are eligible for free public dental services in NSW.
  • The Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS) gives eligible children and teenagers from 2–17 years of age access of up to $1,095 in benefits for oral health care over two calendar years.
  • Some Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) provide dental care for their patients. Each ACCHS may have different eligibility criteria and appointment processes for their dental programs. Contact your local ACCHS for more information

Avoiding dental injuries

  • Provide a safe environment for your child, in the home and in the playground.
  • Adult supervision helps to prevent childhood injuries.
  • Older children should wear mouthguards when training or playing contact sports.
  • If an injury occurs, seek professional dental advice immediately.

Information for young people


  • A considerable number of dental injuries occur during contact sport.
  • Wearing a mouthguard when training or playing contact sports can minimise injuries to teeth, the jaw and surrounding tissue.

Oral/mouth piercing

  • These can chip or crack teeth, and cause an infection and ulceration to the tongue and cheek. The piercing can also interfere with chewing and speaking and can cause loss of taste and gum sensitivity.
  • Always use plastic or rubber jewellery to protect teeth and have the piercing done by a professional.

Smoking, alcohol and other drugs

  • Do not smoke or start smoking.
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol and drug use can cause dry mouth, bleeding gums, teeth grinding, tooth loss, staining of teeth, bad breath and can lead to dental decay, gum disease and cancer. For advice and support visit Your Room

Current as at: Monday 15 April 2024