Your Child's teeth Part 2:
To reduce your child’s risk of cavities, help him or her
- brush twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste;
- use fluoride;
- limit sugary snacks and drinks.
You can start brushing your child’s teeth twice a day when the first tooth comes in. For children younger than 3 years, use no more than a smear of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Children older than 3 years can use a drop of toothpaste about the size of a pea.
You’ll need to brush younger children’s teeth for them. Older children may be able to handle toothbrushing themselves, but watch to make sure they use the right amount of toothpaste and spit out as much as possible.
Fluoride keeps the outside layer of teeth strong. Using fluoridated toothpaste is one way to take advantage of fluoride. Having your child drink fluoridated water is good, too. Fluoridated water is public water with enough fluoride to help keep teeth healthy. Your dentist may be able to help you find out if your water is fluoridated. If it is not, he or she may recommend fluoride tablets or drops to help your child get the most benefit from fluoride.
Limiting sugary snacks and drinks
Teeth are covered with a thin, sticky film of bacteria, which produces acid when exposed to sugar. It is this acid that causes cavities.
Drinks are the largest source of sugar in the American diet.
Juices, for example, can contain sugar. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests avoiding juice for the first year.
The pediatrics group also says children should not sip on juice throughout the day or go to bed with juice. These behaviors increase the risk of tooth decay.