Friday, February 4, 2011

Preventing Childhood Tooth Decay

In honor of National Children's Dental Health Month, we would like to help spread the word on ways to prevent childhood tooth decay and other oral health problems in children.

According to the American Dental Association, your child’s baby teeth are at risk for decay as soon as they first appear-which is typically around age six months. Tooth decay in infants and toddlers is often referred to as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay or Early Childhood Caries (cavities). It most often occurs in the upper front teeth, but other teeth may also be affected. In some unfortunate cases, infants and toddlers have experienced decay so severe that the teeth cannot be repaired and need to be removed. The good news is that decay is preventable (


According the the American Dental Association, the good news is that tooth decay is almost completely preventable. The ADA has put together a list of tips to follow that can help prevent tooth decay for your child:
  • Lower the risk of the baby’s infection with decay-causing bacteria. This can be done two ways – by improving the oral health of the mother/caregiver which reduces the number of bacteria in her mouth and by not sharing saliva with the baby through common use of feeding spoons or licking pacifiers and giving them to babies.
  • After each feeding, wipe the baby’s gums with a clean, damp gauze pad or washcloth. This will remove plaque and bits of food that can harm erupting teeth. When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child’s size toothbrush and water. (Consult with your child’s dentist or physician if you are considering using fluoride toothpaste before age two.)
  • When your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste (usually not before age two), begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. The American Dental Association recommends fluoride toothpaste; ask your dentist about your child’s fluoride needs.
  • Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old.
  • Place only formula, milk or breastmilk in bottles. Avoid filling the bottle with liquids such as sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
  • Infants should finish their bedtime and naptime bottles before going to bed.
  • If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean — don’t dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child.
  • Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday and discourage frequent or prolonged use of a training (sippy) cup.
  • Encourage healthy eating habits that include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains. Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.
  • Ensure that your child has adequate exposure to fluoride. Discuss your child’s fluoride needs with your dentist or pediatrician.