Tips for Teeth: Be Your Child’s Tooth Guardian!


Oral health is not just about avoiding toothaches and cavities. Several studies, including this 2015 paper published in the American Journal of Public Health, show that untreated tooth decay can also cause missed school days, poor academic performance, and low self-esteem.

Children follow their parent’s example in learning how to take care of their teeth. If you display good habits, they will too. Be your child’s tooth guardian! Ask your child what they have been learning about oral health at school and express the importance of good oral hygiene.

It can be easy to get your little one excited about brushing and flossing. When you make oral care a fun family project, you’ll give everyone a reason to smile.

  • Let them choose a brush. If a toothbrush with a character or fun color gets your child excited about brushing, that’s a win. Just make sure the brush isn’t too hard or too large.
  • Use toothpaste with fluoride. If your child is 5 or 6 years old, they only need a pea-sized amount, says the American Dental Association, as of 2014. Young children tend to swallow the paste instead of spitting it out. You can use a larger smear for older brushers.
  • Brush twice a day for two minutes. To keep it fun, play a two-minute song, set a timer, or tell them a special brush-time story. (The two-minute rule applies to adults too, so check your habits!)
  • Floss once a day. A toothbrush can reach only about 40 percent of tooth surfaces. To clean the areas where teeth touch, you need to floss your child’s teeth.
  • Lend a hand. Your child won’t have the motor skills to brush without your help until age 7 or 8. Even then, you should supervise to make sure they’re thorough.
  • Schedule a dental exam. Your child needs a checkup every six months. Set a calendar reminder so you don’t forget!
  • Buy healthy snacks. Fill your kitchen with nutritious treats that don’t promote tooth decay, such as apples, carrots, cheese, and yogurt. And serve water, not soda or other sugary drinks.

To help get your child excited about great oral health, invite them to participate in the “What Makes You Smile?” contest which is taking place across the state of Pennsylvania! The contest invites children in kindergarten through third grade to draw a picture of what brings them happiness and makes them smile. Students and classes are eligible to win prizes and submissions are due May 24, 2019. Parents and teachers can find contest information as well as educational resources and materials at

The “What Makes You Smile” contest is possible through the “Guardians of the Smile” partnership between Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and Children’s Health Fund. Through a $1 million grant from Guardian, the “Guardians of the Smile” partnership provides dental services to children, teaches students about the importance of proper oral hygiene and instills good oral health habits from an early age. In April, the organizations launched a statewide oral health education and public awareness initiative in Pennsylvania, which includes distributing 5,000 oral health education kits across the state among grades K-3, including more than 800 kits to Pittsburgh schools.

Dr. Tillman is a seasoned healthcare professional with more than 30 years of experience in dental insurance, managed care, and health economics. In 2017, she joined Guardian as Chief Dental Officer where she is responsible for clinical policy, claims adjudication, oral health and wellness initiatives and clinical professional training. She earned her DMD from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine and an MBA from Columbia University.

Mr. Walto is Chief Executive Officer of the Children’s Health Fund. He has more than 25 years of senior leadership experience with not-for-profit organizations in the United States and around the world. Over the past three decades, he has lived and worked in some of the world’s toughest places and built a professional network of leaders, activists, influencers, donors, and decision makers in 43 states and more than 20 countries across the globe. He received his Master of Arts degree from York St. John University with a thesis on positive organizational development.

This content is for informational purposes only. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your child's dental health, please contact your dentist's office. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY. 2019-77992