Children who do not brush their teeth, or properly brush them, experience the same plaque buildup, tooth decay, and bleeding gum problems adults do. However, in a child the problem is heightened. A child who does not have their permanent teeth yet can actually damage the permanent teeth being formed underneath the decaying baby tooth. In my years in the dental field, several cases of this came through the office.
It is the responsibility of the parents to take children to a dentist for routine exams and to oversee their dental care. The dentist will show the child the proper way in which to brush and floss their teeth. However, it is the parent's responsibility to reinforce the proper brushing and flossing techniques at home. Parents also need to teach a child to brush after each meal, each snack, and before bedtime to build good dental hygiene habits that will follow the child into adulthood.
A child should brush their teeth for a full two minutes. A parent needs to be present while children are brushing their teeth to make sure they are brushing for the reccommended amount of time and using proper technique. Parents tend to forget how sly children can be and that children can often take pleasure in feeling like they tricked us. The only way to combat this is to be present in the room with the child at the time they are brushing their teeth.
If the parent is irresponsible and does not enforce proper teeth brushing during childhood, that child will grow up with poor dental habits which lead to gum disease and further loss, or total loss, of permanent teeth. Many adults do not carry through with their own oral hygiene as they should. They deem it sufficient to only brush their teeth twice a day and think if their child brushes their teeth once a day it is alright. Further, it is more difficult for any parent to teach a child proper hygiene habits for permanent teeth when they did not teach them proper hygiene habits for baby teeth. The child will not comprehend the sudden change.
Uninformed parents do not realize the importance of brushing baby teeth and feel they are going to lose the teeth anyway so brushing once a day is sufficient. A baby tooth is not lost until the newly forming permanent tooth pushes the baby tooth out. If the baby tooth is decaying into the roots beneath the gum, the new permanent teeth may be resting upon the decaying baby tooth and begin decaying itself.
Be a responsible parent. Begin taking your child to the dentist when it is nearing three years of age. The dentist will have a "happy visit" with his new little patient on the first appointment. The dentist will show the child a model of teeth and talk to the child. If the child seems at ease the dentist may ask to look in the child's mouth but will not do anything other than look. Most dentists will do the child's first cleaning at a subsequent visit and gradually acquaint the child with a dental office before the child begins routine visits with the dentist's hygienist. The dentist will demonstrate proper brushing techniques with the child using a model of teeth. Follow up at home by going over what the dentist demonstrated to the child and enforcing these techniques. You are your child's first line of defense agaist cavities and gum disease!