caregivers providers

Balancing Good Oral Health

Your job as a parent is to balance the cavity causers with the cavity fighters so you can help your child avoid tooth decay.

Cavity Causers

  • Frequent sugary treats and high-carbohydrate snacking is a problem. This includes cookies, crackers and soda. Your child's mouth needs time between snacks to recover.
  • Sharing food or drinks and putting things in your mouth and then your child's mouth can introduce germs into your baby's mouth.
  • Reduced saliva flow means a child's mouth cannot fight cavities as well. Saliva helps clean the teeth and blocks the acids that cause cavities. Some medical conditions and medications (such as some asthma and behavior management medicines) can reduce saliva. If your child is on medication for either of these conditions, talk to your doctor or dentist about what you can do to protect their teeth.

Frequent snacking on carbohydrates puts your child more at risk for cavities.

Cavity Fighters...

Regular Brushing and Flossing

You need to brush your young child's teeth. Your child may be ready to practice brushing at about age 4 or 5, but they still need your help until they are 8 years old or until they can tie their shoes. Brush and floss your own teeth and have regular dental checkups, too. You are a role model for your child.

  • Brush teeth with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste (pea-sized for older children) twice a day. Always brush before bedtime.
  • Brush with a small, soft toothbrush. Be sure to clean all tooth surfaces, gums and the tongue.
  • When teeth touch, begin to floss your child's teeth.

Healthy Nutrition

  • Offer low-carbohydrate snacks. Good choices include fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese and whole-grain snacks. See the tooth-friendly snack list here.
  • When a sugary treat is offered, it is best at mealtime.
  • Brush your child's teeth afterward a sugary snack. If brushing is not possible, rinse the mouth with water.


Fluoride can help prevent cavities and can even help heal early tooth decay.

  • Find out if your water is fluoridated. If it is not, your child may need to get fluoride from another source, such as fluoride drops or tablets from your dentist or doctor.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Ask your dentist or doctor about fluoride varnish to protect against cavities. The varnish is "painted" on the child's teeth during a dental checkup or at the doctor's office during a well-child visit.

Regular Dental Checkups

  • Have your child's teeth checked by their first birthday and make regular dental appointments as they grow.
  • Quickly get help if you suspect any problems.
  • Ask your doctor about medicines your child takes to see if they could affect saliva and what you can do about it.