Oral Health Information for Parents
Early childhood tooth decay is a common dental problem. It can happen when your child drinks a lot of sugary liquids like soda, malta, juice, punch, and even milk and formula. If not treated early, tooth decay can cause serious health problems, including pain and infection, that interfere with your child's ability to eat, sleep, speak, interact with friends, and concentrate and learn in school. It can also cost a lot of money to fix. The good news is that early childhood tooth decay can be prevented!
What You Should Do to Keep Your Child's Teeth Healthy
For babies and toddlers
Primary teeth, sometimes called "baby teeth," are just as important as permanent adult teeth. Good nutrition and proper feeding are very important for building healthy teeth during your baby's first year. To keep your baby's teeth healthy as she grows:
- Team up with a dentist early and put your child on the road to a lifetime of healthy smiles. Going to the dentist by age one will help make sure your baby's teeth start healthy and stay healthy. This first visit gives you a chance to ask questions, and it helps your baby start to recognize the dentist and dentist office as a nice place with nice people. It also gives the dentist and you a chance to make sure your baby's teeth and mouth are healthy. (more)
- Consider breastfeeding your baby. Breastfeeding gives your baby the best nutrition. Breastmilk is also less likely to cause tooth decay than formula. (more)
- Use bottles and sippy cups wisely to keep sugar from staying on your baby's teeth and causing cavities. A sippy cup is any cup that has a lid and helps prevent your child from spilling her drink. This includes cups with built-in straws.
- Use only breastmilk, formula, or water in your baby's bottle.
- Never give juice from a bottle.
- Never use a bottle as a pacifier. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about other ways to calm a fussy baby.
- Do not dip pacifiers in sweet foods or drinks.
- Never put your child to sleep with a bottle.
- You can introduce a cup or sippy cup when your child turns six months of age.
- Offer WIC-approved juice diluted with water from a cup with meals or snacks only. Your baby does not need more than 4 ounces (half a cup) of WIC juice in a day.
- Do not let your child fall asleep or walk around with a sippy cup in her mouth.
- Start teaching your child how to use a cup without a lid when she turns 1 year old.
- Clean your baby's teeth and gums after each feeding. (more)
- Do not share utensils, taste food, or clean your baby's pacifier with your mouth. You can pass germs in your mouth to your baby.
- Take your child to the dentist at least once a year, or more if suggested by the dentist.
- Talk to your child's doctor or dentist about making sure your child is getting enough fluoride each day.
- Give your child healthy snacks, such as cheese, yogurt, vegetables, and fruit. Limit the amount of sweet and sticky snacks you give, such as cookies, candy, fruit roll-ups, dried fruit, and cakes. (more)
- Limit the number of sugary drinks your child has each day, such as flavored milk, soda, malta, punch, and juice. (more)
For children and teens
- Teach your child about good oral hygiene. (more)
- Take your child to the dentist twice a year for cleanings and exams.
- Talk to your child's dentist about whether dental sealants are a good choice for your child.
- Encourage and demonstrate healthy eating and avoiding sugary foods and drinks. Help your child choose healthy snacks and drinks when he is busy and eating on the run. (more)
- Help your child or teen make smart choices and avoid cigarettes and chew tobacco. (more)
- Prevent injuries to your childs' mouth and face at home, in the car, on the playground, and on the sports field. (more)