Care Tips for Your Child's Teeth

  • Starting at birth, clean your child's gums with a soft cloth and water.
  • When your child's teeth erupt, brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • If they are under the age of 2, use a tiny smear of toothpaste.
  • If they're between 2 and 5 years old, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
  • Make sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and ensure your child doesn't swallow it.
  • Brush your child's teeth until they are old enough to do a good job on their own.

Flossing Tips

  • Flossing removes plaque between teeth and under the gumline that a toothbrush can't reach.
  • Your child should start flossing as soon as two of their teeth start touching.
  • Floss your child's teeth daily until they can do it alone.

Good Diet = Healthy Teeth

It's a well-known fact that healthy eating habits lead to healthy teeth. Like the rest of your body, your teeth, bones, and soft mouth tissues need a well-balanced diet. Children should eat varied foods from all five major food groups.

Most snacks kids eat lead to cavity formation, so the more frequently a child snacks, the greater their chance of tooth decay. How long food remains in your child's mouth also plays a key role. For example, hard candy and breath mints stick to your teeth and stay long, producing more prolonged acid attacks on tooth enamel.

If your child must snack, choose nutritious foods such as vegetables or low-fat yogurt and cheese, which are healthier and better for their teeth.

How Do I Prevent Cavities?

Good oral hygiene removes bacteria and leftover food particles that combine to create cavities. To remove harmful substances in your infant's mouth, use a wet gauze or clean washcloth to wipe plaque in their teeth and gums. Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of anything other than water. See "Baby Bottle Tooth Decay" for more information.

If your child is older, brush their teeth at least twice a day and watch how many sugary snacks you give them.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children visit their pediatric dentist every six months starting at age 1. Routine visits will start your child on a lifetime of good dental health. Your pediatric dentist may also bring up protective sealants or home fluoride treatments for your child, which prevent decay on hard-to-clean surfaces.

Seal Out Decay

A sealant is a protective coating dentists apply to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth, where four out of five cavities in children form. Sealants act as a barrier to food, plaque, and acid, protecting decay-prone sections of your teeth.


Fluoride is a naturally-occurring element that prevents tooth decay by as much as 50-70%. Despite the advantages, too little or too much fluoride can damage your teeth. With little or no fluoride, your teeth don't become strong enough to fight cavities. On the other hand, when young children ingest an excessive amount of fluoride, it can lead to dental fluorosis, a chalky white or brown discoloration of permanent teeth. Follow your pediatric dentist's instructions on suggested fluoride use and possible supplements.

You can help by using only a smear of toothpaste to brush your kid's teeth if they're under three years old. For children from 3 to 6 years old, use a "pea-sized" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child's toothbrushing. Remember that young children can't brush their teeth effectively on their own. To avoid fluorosis, children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.

Mouth Guards

When a child begins to participate in recreational activities and organized sports, they can injure themselves. A properly-fitted mouthguard is an essential piece of athletic gear that can protect your child's smile. Your children should use it during any activity that could result in a blow to the face or mouth.

Mouthguards help prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw. A custom-made mouthguard will stay in place, making it easier for your child to talk and breathe.

Ask your pediatric dentist about custom and store-bought mouth protectors.

Xylitol - Reducing Cavities

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recognizes the benefits xylitol has on the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and people with special healthcare needs.

Research has shown that when mothers use xylitol gum three months after giving birth and until their kid is two years old, the number of cavities reduces up to 70% by the time their child is five.

According to research, using xylitol as a sugar substitute or an addition to your diet results in a dramatic reduction of tooth decay and some reversal of existing caries. Xylitol provides additional protection that enhances all existing prevention methods, and its effects are long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after medical trials have finished.

Xylitol is widely present in nature but only in small amounts. Some of the best sources are fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corn cobs. One cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.

Studies suggest that, for consistent positive results, your intake has to range from 4 to 20 grams per day and be divided into 3 to 7 portions throughout the day. Eating more doesn't give better results and can even be detrimental to your health. Similarly, not having enough xylitol won't contribute to your teeth's well-being.

To find gum or other products containing xylitol, visit your local health food store or search the internet.

Beware of Sports Drinks

Due to the high sugar content and acids in sports drinks, they can erode even fluoride-rich enamel and lead to cavities.

To minimize dental problems, children should avoid sports drinks and hydrate with water before, during, and after a sport. Be sure to talk to your pediatric dentist before using sports drinks.

If you or your child drink sports drinks, follow these instructions:

  • Reduce the times you consume them a week and how much they stay inside your mouth.
  • Swallow immediately, and don't swish them around the mouth.
  • Neutralize the effect of sports drinks by alternating with sips of water.
  • Rinse mouthguards with water only.
  • Look for teeth-friendly sports drinks.

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