Children’s dental health: How to prevent cavities


If you have young children, you’ve probably wondered, what’s the best way to prevent my child from getting cavities? When should they start brushing and flossing their teeth? Should I take them to the dentist with me?

Our friends at The Children’s Workshop answered these questions and more.

Oral care at a young age

Teaching your child/children oral care at a young age will help them in years to come to care for their own teeth and prevent cavities or problems with their gums. Children need to brush their teeth twice a day to prevent plaque, the main cause of tooth decay. Floss daily also to help remove the plaque you do not get from brushing. If plaque turns into tarter, the only way to remove it is from a professional dentist or hygienist.  Nutrition is extremely important in helping your child develop healthy teeth. Parents should limit foods that consist of a lot of sugar and starches. Foods that contain both of these can also cause tooth decay. Help your child to choose healthy snacks such as apples, oranges, fresh vegetables to snack on and include in meals. Fresh fruit can replace juice that may contain a lot of sugar. By doing this, you are not only helping your child’s teeth but you are also teaching healthy eating habit that will stay with them as they grow.

When should you start brushing your child’s teeth?

Baby’s teeth begin to form before they are born. By age three, all 20 baby teeth are developed. If not, do not worry, some children take a little longer than others.  As soon as your child’s first tooth starts to show, you should start brushing their teeth. You can use clean gauze to clean the tooth or few teeth to start.  You can do this even before teeth start to form.  Parents who breast feed or use formula should wipe down their child’s gums.  Once your child starts to developed few teeth you can buy non- fluoride toothpaste to start. When your child is old enough not to swallow the toothpaste, you can switch to fluoride toothpaste.  One of the best ways to teach your child to brush their teeth is to be a good role model. Let them see you brushing your teeth or have them brush theirs along side of you. Make it a fun time and not a chore and your child will enjoy doing this every day.

Tips for your child’s healthy teeth

  1. Start early before one year old, take your child to the dentist.
  2. Once your child is able to brush their teeth, help them to brush after breakfast and before bed.
  3. Children should brush their teeth for two minutes each time. Sing the ABCs four times.
  4. Choose a toothbrush for your child’s age. Look for a small head and soft bristles.
  5. Eating vegetables, fruit, and drinking water are healthier for you and your child’s teeth.
  6. If you cannot make it to a dentist because of cost or distant; ask the health department about mobile dentist or low cost services and enjoy healthy teeth for years to come.

Resources:  Parent magazine, Parents guide to dental care.

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