Tooth Decay Prevention
Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay
Oral hygiene habits, such as brushing and flossing, are essential to good oral hygiene, but there are many other measures you can take to help your child prevent cavities. Even the youngest toddlers need to take care of their teeth.
Here are some tips on how to prevent tooth decay for babies and toddlers:
- Clean your baby’s gums after meals by wiping them with a damp washcloth (even before their first teeth erupt).
- Bring your baby to a pediatric dentist 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth (usually around 12 months of age).
- Start brushing the teeth as soon as they develop. Use a wet baby toothbrush, and if you use toothpaste, make sure to choose one with fluoride. Once your baby is 2 to 3 years old, make sure you are brushing their teeth twice a day for at least 30 seconds (preferably a full minute). Instead of a pea-sized amount, just swipe a paper-thin amount on your child’s brush.
- Regular flossing should begin once two of your child’s teeth are touching.
- Look for white spots on the teeth, discoloration, swollen or irritated gums, and other early signs of tooth decay.
- Don’t let children go to bed or walk around all day with a bottle or sippy cup unless it is filled with plain water. Breast milk, formula, and fruit juice (even if it’s diluted) contain natural sugars that promote bacteria. Limit consumption of these drinks to scheduled meal and snack times whenever possible to prevent baby bottle tooth decay.
- Make sure your mouth is as clean as possible by maintaining a healthy diet and brushing your teeth regularly, especially if you have a history of dental cavities and other problems. Germs that cause cavities can be passed from adults to children when sharing spoons and other utensils.
Before making any changes to your child’s diet or routine, consult with your pediatrician and/or pediatric dentist.
How to Help Your Child Prevent Tooth Decay
As children get older, they can start caring for their teeth on their own, but guiding positive hygiene habits and dietary choices can make a huge difference.
- When your child starts brushing their teeth on their own, usually around age 3 or 4, give them lots of positive feedback. Brush your teeth with your child to set a positive example.
- Help them floss gently until they can do it on their own.
- Watch your child brush their teeth to make sure they get all of the areas in the mouth. Make sure they spit out all of the toothpaste. You should watch your child brush until they are 8 years old.
- Limit the consumption of sugary snacks and drinks. Even starchy and sticky foods, such as crackers, cereal, and raisins, can promote bacteria growth. Encourage children to drink water after snack and meal times.
- Don’t let children go to bed with milk or juice—this exposes the teeth to sugar for 8 hours or more at a time. Give them plain water instead.
- Visit your pediatric dentist regularly (once every 6 months) and ask about sealants, fluoride treatments, and other preventive care options.
- Keep your mouth clean by brushing, flossing, and maintaining a healthy diet to prevent spreading germs that cause cavities from your mouth to your child’s.
Before making any changes to your child’s diet or routine, consult with your pediatrician and/or pediatric dentist. Our office in Amarillo, TX, is equipped with advanced dental X-ray technology, which may be used during your child’s appointment.
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