Mother helps care for child's teeth


Caregivers



You are the first line of defense in caring for your child's teeth. You can ensure your child has strong teeth and a healthy mouth.

mother caring for her child's teeth by brushing them

Caregivers

You are the first line of defense in making sure your children have strong teeth and a healthy mouth.

Sometimes it’s the little things you can’t see that make a big difference later on – like caring for your children’s baby teeth.

Learn the simple steps to keep your child's mouth healthy and their smile bright.

Protect your Child's Teeth and Smile

Watch our 8-minute video on caring for your child's teeth. Cavities are preventable!

Smiling Baby with two teeth

Simple steps now will prevent cavities later!

Preventing cavities—the impossible dream?

Children’s teeth get cavities, it’s inevitable—right? But is it inevitable, or have we just accepted that as truth without challenging it? Because cavities are the result of habits (or lack of habits), and therefore they CAN be prevented. If you start when the very first tooth emerges, build the right habits for you and your child and remain committed to those habits, cavities are 100% preventable!

Don’t just hope for the best for your child's teeth!

Habits take a while to build, so think of this as goal-setting for you and your child. Just like when we challenge ourselves to exercise or diet, sometimes we’re successful and sometimes we falter. But as we keep trying, we build habits that get us closer to our goal of a lifetime commitment to healthy living.

But what if your child already has cavities? Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can still start now to build the habits that will prevent future cavities and keep your child’s mouth healthy.

So, what are some of the things you can do to raise a cavity-free child?

mother and child having fun in bathroom brushing teeth
Clinic staff seeks to improve children's oral health

Establish a dental home for your child

Don’t wait until there’s an issue with child’s teeth before going to the dentist. Preventative oral care is key to making sure your child’s mouth is healthy. In fact, finding a “dental home,” a place where your child is seen at least two times per year, allows the dental provider to discuss and recommend preventative care routines and spot potential issues early. It also allows your child to build a positive relationship with the dentist.

If you need help locating a dental home, particularly if your child has a Medical Assistance Health Plan, the Minnesota Oral Health Directory can help you find a dentist by region or zip code.

Brush for 2

Newborns should have their mouth cleaned after every feeding. Use a damp washcloth to wipe their gums; this will get them used to the routine of cleaning their mouth after eating, making it easier to transition to brushing once their first tooth emerges. It has the added benefit of keeping their mouth healthy and clean.

An older child’s teeth should be brushed twice a day for two minutes. Use a soft brush and fluoridated toothpaste, with an amount no bigger than a grain of rice. Think of this as “Brushing for 2.” To help your child brush the full time try using an egg timer or perhaps play a video or song on your smart phone that lasts about two minutes.

Most children aren’t able to brush their teeth without your help until they reach the age of seven or eight. If your child has the manual dexterity to tie their own shoes then they probably have the physical proficiency needed to brush their teeth on their own.

mother brushing child's teeth
Child drinking tap water poured from a pitcher
Child drinking water from bottle

Make sure there’s fluoride in your water

Drinking fluoridated water is one of the best ways to stop cavities and protect children’s teeth. Many communities fluoridate their water; if you are unsure you should check to see if your community does. But even if your community does fluoridate its drinking water, you could unknowingly be undoing the benefits:

  • Most bottled water does not contain fluoride. If your child drinks a lot of bottled water, check the label to see if it contains fluoride. If it doesn’t, switch to a brand that does contain fluoride.
  • Some water filters, like reverse osmosis systems, remove fluoride from water. This may include the water system in your refrigerator door, if it uses reverse osmosis.
  • If you get your water from a private well you cannot be certain of the fluoride content unless it is tested. The Public Health Agency in your area can recommend a local laboratory to test your water. Once your water is tested, your dentist or primary physician can determine if it has sufficient fluoride for your child.
  • Some good news—if you use a filtered water pitcher, it will not remove fluoride.

The bottom line is this, check to make sure the primary water your child drinks contains fluoride. Fluoride is like a magic shield for the teeth. Be sure to take advantage of it to ensure that your child has a healthy mouth.

Start oral care as soon as your baby is born.

  • Wipe your baby’s gums after feeding with a clean washcloth. This familiarizes your child with oral care and clears germs from their gums.
  • Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle; if it can't be avoided, the bottle should contain water only. Bottle mouth is a condition of severe tooth decay caused by bathing the teeth in sugar from a bottle at night.
  • As soon as the first baby tooth emerges, use a baby toothbrush or damp washcloth and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste to clean the tooth after every meal.
  • Talk to your medical provider about having fluoride varnish applied as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts. This is one of the best ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
mother bottle feeds child
Girl drinking from a sippy cup

Keep sugars off your child's teeth.

  • Put fluoridated water in a sippy cup or bottle in between meals. With more than seventy years of scientific research to rely upon, the American Dental Association has determined that fluoridated water is safe and prevents oral tooth decay.
  • Sugary foods and beverages should only be given at mealtimes, not throughout the day and night. The goal is to minimize the time any sugary or starchy foods are on the teeth.
  • Sodas and juice, even diluted juice, add sugar and acid to teeth and should be avoided altogether. Sugary beverages, including juices and even milk, in a sippy cup between meals constantly bathe the teeth in sugar and are particularly harmful to teeth.

Remember, establishing daily routines and building healthy oral habits when they’re very young means your children’s teeth will grow strong and healthy. Even if you don’t succeed in preventing 100% of cavities, by following these simple steps we promise you will prevent dental problems that could keep your child from having the bright, confident smile they were born to have.

Children with bright smiles