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Survey shows decline in children's oral health habits

Brushing your teeth twice daily is key to good oral health, but the results of a recent Queensland Health survey reveal that only two-thirds of Queensland children are meeting this target.

Coinciding with World Oral Health Day, new Queensland Health data showed between October to December 2021, 65 per cent of parents surveyed said their child brushed their teeth five to seven mornings each week, down from 78 per cent at the same time the previous year.

Similarly, 62 per cent said their child brushed their teeth five to seven nights each week, down from 81 per cent.

Queensland Health Chief Dental Officer Dr Mark Brown said the results were a timely reminder about the importance of children establishing and maintaining lifelong positive oral health habits, including brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, avoiding sugary food and drinks, and attending regular dental check-ups.

“Tooth decay and gum diseases are common but largely preventable, and that’s why it’s so important to start good oral health behaviours from childhood,” Dr Brown said.

“Both adults and children should be brushing their teeth in the morning and it should be the last thing they do before going to bed at night.

“Establishing morning and evening brushing routines are essential for children, including babies, to build lifelong habits.”

Dr Brown said teeth cleaning should start as soon as a child’s first tooth appears.

“You can brush baby’s teeth with a soft toothbrush and add a children’s toothpaste to the brushing routine from 18 months of age,” Dr Brown said.

“Parents and carers are encouraged to help children to brush well for around two minutes and follow up with cleaning any places they may have missed.”

Dr Brown said cavities in baby teeth do matter, with tooth decay in children having the potential to lead to very serious issues in childhood.

“Tooth decay can not only cause pain, discomfort and infection, but it can also affect speech, jaw development, a child’s general health and their social wellbeing,” Dr Brown said.

“Parents should take their children to an oral health professional before they turn two and then continue to have regular dental check-ups after that. Your oral health professional will tell you how often your child should get check-ups dependent on their individual needs.”

Dr Brown said Queensland Health provided a free dental service for eligible children to complement the efforts of parents and carers at home and help with unforeseen circumstances.

“Many Queensland children are eligible for free dental care, including appointments for check-ups, preventive care, fillings and emergency care,” Dr Brown said.

“We provide dental care for children on-site at schools or at community dental clinics, so I encourage parents and carers to take advantage of this service.

“Doing so will go a long way toward protecting children’s teeth and gums and help them understand the importance of good oral health,” he said.

Children are eligible for free public dental care if they:

  • are a Queensland resident or attend a Queensland school; and,
  • are eligible for Medicare; and,
  • meet at least one of the following criteria:
    • aged four years or older and have not completed Year 10; or,
    • be eligible for the Medicare Child Dental Benefits Schedule; or,
    • hold, or be listed as a dependent on, a valid Centrelink concession card

For more information, visit

Parents can use Queensland Health’s two-minute brushing song to help get their kids in the spirit and brushing for the right length of time.

Additionally, parents can access toothbrushing charts and fact sheets from Queensland Health’s Happy Teeth Resource Kit, which has been developed by early childhood specialists and oral health professionals.

These resources are available here:


Last updated: 17 March 2022