Healthy smiles start with healthy habits for kids

Child learning healthy dental care at Northwest Colorado Health dental clinic located in Steamboat Springs, Craig and Oak Creek Colorado.

Good oral health is important at any age, but especially for children. Developing good habits early in life and receiving preventative care will significantly improve their oral health into adulthood.

One of the most common chronic health problems in children is tooth decay, or cavities. Cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing and learning. The good news is that cavities can be prevented with good oral health habits and preventative care. There are simple steps parents can take to ensure their children’s smile starts healthy as an infant and stays healthy as they grow.

Preventing Tooth Decay

  1. Children should have their first dental visit no later than one year of age. As soon as a baby has teeth, they can get cavities. Regular dental cleanings are important for preventing tooth decay.
  2. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride helps make teeth stronger and it doesn’t take much to clean kids’ teeth. For children ages 0-3, you only need toothpaste the size of a grain of rice, and for children 3 and older a pea size amount of toothpaste.
  3. Kids should brush for two minutes, twice a day. Flossing is important for kids too!
  4. Eat healthy and avoid sugary food and beverages like soda and juice. Drinking fluoridated water can help protect teeth.
  5. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. Long exposure to drinks that contain sugar (including milk) can cause Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. First teeth help make sure adult teeth come in correctly, so following good oral health care for infants will impact their smile for decades to come.

Often, a barrier to kids receiving dental care is the need for parents to take off work or pull their kids out of school to get to an appointment. To make it easier for families to access dental care, Northwest Colorado Health offers dental appointments for kids on Fridays at the Boys and Girls Club in Craig through the School-Based Health mobile dental unit. Northwest Colorado Health recently received its brand new mobile dental unit, with upgraded equipment and more space for seeing patients.

This School-Based Health program is part of Northwest Colorado Health’s Community Health Center, and all kids have access to services, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Medicaid and private insurance is accepted, and patients without insurance have access to the Client Assistance Program to help keep costs affordable.

Dental appointments in the mobile clinic are with a registered dental hygienist and typically last 45 minutes. Dental screenings, exams, cleanings, sealants, fluoride treatments and x-rays are currently available in the mobile dental unit. Appointments are available on Wednesdays in Steamboat Springs (alternating between Sleeping Giant School, Soda Creek Elementary, and Strawberry Park Elementary/Steamboat Springs Middle School), Thursdays at Hayden Valley Schools, and Fridays at the Boys and Girls Club in Craig. View the full schedule of locations here.

Preventative dental care for kids is also available Monday through Friday at Northwest Colorado Health’s Community Health Centers and the Dental Clinics in Craig, Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek. Insurance, including Medicaid, is accepted and patients without insurance can pay for services on a sliding scale, making dental care more affordable and accessible for families. Call 970-824-8000 to make an appointment for your child at the Community Health Center, or 970-870-4158 for the school-based mobile clinic. To learn more visit

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