How should I care for my child’s teeth?

A child’s teeth should be brushed twice daily to cleanse them of the cavity-causing plaque and food that accumulates throughout the day.  Most parents find the best success by creating a routine for doing this, generally in the morning after breakfast, and again before bed.  Children ages 2 and up can safely use toothpaste with fluoride.  All fluoride toothpastes in the U.S., whether they are adult or child pastes, have the same amount of fluoride.  The difference is strictly in flavor and packaging.  Since children don’t develop the necessary manual dexterity to get their teeth adequately cleaned until around age 7, parents should help with this.

How can I prevent cavities?

  • Start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the come in.  This is when the bacteria (germs) begin to live in the mouth.  If there is a family history of lots of cavities, especially with older siblings and parents/caregivers, there is a much higher likelihood that your childhood will develop cavities between 2 and 5 years old.  Consider a non-fluoride toothpaste with xylitol in it (Spry brand, etc).  This is effective at decreasing the way plaque and bacteria stick to the teeth.
  • Consider and control when and what your child gets to eat.  Most likely causes of cavities related to dietary habits include:
    • Excessive sugary foods, especially between meals
    • Sugary drinks including fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored soy and cow milk, especially between meals
    • Snacking between meals, especially starchy (crackers, chips, dry cereal, etc) and sugary (candy, cookies) foods
    • Best snacks:  Fresh fruits & vegetables and Protein (meats, cheeses, and nuts).
  • Brushing twice daily, especially at night before bed.  Saliva production is drastically reduced at night, and this is the main source of natural protection against cavities.
  • Floss at least once daily, especially between the back baby teeth (molars).  This is by far the most common place young kids get cavities that need fillings to fix.
  • Visit a dentist within 6 months of the first teeth coming in.  This will have a significant positive influence on your child’s outlook about going to the dentist, which will lead to regular preventive care and less chance of needing treatment to fix cavities as they get older.
  • Regular visits to the dentist (every 6 months).  This will allow for early detection of cavities and the risk factors that lead to cavities.  That way, more preventive and less invasive treatment options are available to manage the disease.