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10 Tips to Keep Your Kids Cavity-Free: from Toddler to Teen

Half of all children will experience a cavity between the ages of five and nine, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). This fact is one of the many reasons the academy sponsors February as National Children's Dental Health Month. Even though a lot about our children's teeth is genetic, there are steps we can take to decrease their risk of dental problems.

Local dentist and mother of two, Luciane Queiroz, DDS, says maintaining a Healthy mouth is vital to long term Health and vitality. "Body Health starts in your mouth," she says. "It's better to be preventative before cavities show up; then you do not have to do restorative work."

Schedule Regular Dental

Check Ups

The AAPD recommends scheduling a first dental visit when the first tooth erupts or no later than the first birthday. Baby teeth are important, because they act as space maintainers for the underlying permanent teeth.

Children should visit the dentist often to ensure Healthy teeth and ward off tooth decay in the first place. Queiroz provides a dental examine for her two children, Amanda, 5, and Marcos, 4, every six months.

Limit the Bottle

When dentists see cavities in children as young as 15-18 months, they can usually guess that too many bottles full of formula, juice, or a sugary drink are the likely culprit. When teeth are bathed in sugars from juice or formula for long periods of time, it increases the likelihood of tooth decay. Most dentists recommend never putting a baby or toddler to bed with a bottle, unless it's filled with water. Breast milk contains lactose (a sugar), so if a baby is allowed to fall asleep at the breast, the same result occurs.

Start Oral Hygiene Early

To start a lifetime of Healthy habits, dentists recommend starting oral hygiene even before your baby'sfirst tooth. Parents can wipe their child's gums clean with a bit of moistened gauze or a clean baby washcloth.

Make it fun! For older children, you can have them get in on the fun. Let them pick out their own dental supplies: fun, colorful toothbrushes, bubble gum-flavored toothpaste, dinosaur-shaped flossers, and disclosing rinses. To encourage daily participation, you can even print out a reward chart created by the American Dental Association at

Be an Example

Make it a family affair! Children learn by example. If you want your children to have good oral hygiene habits, you will have to step up and practice these tips yourself. Make sure your children see you brush and floss your teeth daily. They will follow in your footsteps.

Smart Brushing

Tooth-brushing is one of the easiest methods of cavity prevention. Brush in a gradual circular motion for two minutes. Make sure to supervise children, especially under the age of ten, to help find blind spots.

The AAPD recommends using only soft-bristled toothbrushes, manual or battery-powered. Take the time to find the toothbrush that fits your child's age and capability. Replace your toothbrush every three months or when its bristles fray, whichever comes first.

Floss Daily

As soon as your baby's teeth come together, usually around two and a half years old, you can start flossing once daily. Avoid aggressive flossing. Gums are delicate, so be careful when flossing and don't let your children floss their own teeth until they are ready.

Dental Sealants

According to the AAPD, dental sealants work by filling in the crevasses on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. This shuts out food particles that could get caught in the teeth, causing cavities. The application is fast and comfortable and can effectively protect teeth for many years.


Fluoride is a safe and effective way of preventing tooth decay. Queiroz says it's important to monitor your child's fluoride intake, because too much can lead to fluorosis - a condition in which the teeth can become damaged and discolored. "Make sure they are only getting fluoride from one source," she says.

Limit Snacking and Sugary Drinks

Limiting snacks and sugary drinks while eating a balanced diet with regular meals will aid in protecting your child's teeth from decay. Eating sugar and snacking, especially on processed foods, can create a cavity-promoting environment. According to Queiroz, sugar feeds bacteria and creates acid, which in turn causes cavities.

Braces Require an Aggressive Dental Care Plan

Your tween is at a higher risk of developing cavities once braces are thrown into the dental mix. With braces, you need to spend extra time and attention on your child's oral Health. In addition to brushing, have him use disclosing tablets or solutions and a fluoride rinse. For more dental tips to promote a Healthy smile, visit

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Tags: Featured Story, Health

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