Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for your child's teeth

A dental home is a dentist who annually will offer to a patient two visits for prevention checkups and as many visits as needed for any dental problems, like cavities. Every child should have a dental home by age one at the latest.
  1. Brush Teeth: Your child's teeth should be brushed twice a day with a smear of fluoridated toothpaste starting with the eruption of the first tooth or by age one at the latest. 
  2. Drink Fluoridated Water: Your child should drink fluoridated water regularly. If your child drinks only bottled water, read the label on the bottle to see if the water contains fluoride. Most bottled water has no fluoride in it. 
  3. Apply Fluoride Varnish: Your child should have fluoride varnish four times per year.
  4. Find a Dental Home: Your child should have a dental home. Bring your child to the dentist at least two times per year for preventive services.
Start brushing your child's teeth with fluoridated toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears.  It is helpful to begin wiping the baby's gums soon after birth, so both you, the caregiver, and the child become accustomed to the procedure.  When you brush a young child's teeth, use a smear or a half-pea size amount of fluoridated toothpaste and wipe the child's teeth with a damp cloth after brushing.  Children cannot spit out toothpaste until they are 7 or 8 years old.
Most children are 7-8 years old or older before they can brush their own teeth well.  Let your child brush his/her own teeth when they want to try, but then brush them yourself to make sure that all surfaces of all teeth are brushed well. If the teeth do not touch, there is no need to floss.
Telling children about cavities is OK.  You can make teeth brushing fun by using timers or phone apps.  It can be helpful to teach kids to care for their dolls or stuffed animal's teeth also. If a brushing is missed once in a while, it will be OK if he/she is drinking fluoridated water and regularly seeing a dentist or getting fluoride varnish applied. 
Milk, formula, juice and soda pop have sugar in them and the sugar bathes the child's teeth all night. Sugar combines with germs on the teeth and causes cavities and tooth decay. Some juices and most soda pops also contain acid which is very hard on the enamel of teeth. If the child must take a bottle to bed or nap put only water in the bottle and don't add sugar or other flavoring to the water to make it sweeter.
Give your child only water to drink in a sippy cup throughout the day. Don't add sugar or other flavoring to the water to make it sweeter. Save milk and juices for meal times. If your child is drinking milk, formula, juice and soda pop from a sippy cup, the sugar bathes the child's teeth all day. The sugar combines with germs on the teeth and causes cavities and tooth decay. Some juices and most soda pops also contain acid which is very hard on the enamel of teeth.
Caries is the process when the germs that are found naturally in the mouth combine with sugars found in food and drink.  That process leads to cavities.  Since caries are formed by germs in the presence of sugars, it is an infection and infections are preventable.
Let your dentist know that you want your child to see a dentist for the first time by age one at the latest and ask if you can bring the child along to your own dental visit.  If your dentist still will not see your child, you have the right to choose another dentist.
Baby teeth are very important.  They save room for the permanent teeth and guide the permanent teeth in so they are straight.  They help the child eat nutritious food.  They also help your child develop good speaking skills.  To make a d, t or th sound, you need to put your tongue against your upper front teeth. Upper teeth develop caries before lower teeth.
The dentist can put fillings in your child's teeth, but fillings weaken the tooth, so later in life, the tooth will have more decay or will break.  It is much better to prevent cavities before they start.
Your dentist or doctor will check your child's mouth for cavities but you can watch also.  Lift your child's upper lip up and look at the spot where the central teeth meet the gum line.  If there are white spots, the caries process has started. Fluoride varnish can remineralize the white spot thus stoping a cavity from forming.  If there are brown spots,fluoride won't stop the cavity from developing and your child should see a dentist.
Almost all public water in Minnesota has fluoride added to it, including rural water. Check with your local water department if you are uncertain. If you have well water, you can have your water checked for fluoride at your local public health agency.  If your child goes to day care, a grandparent's house, or a babysitter who lives in town, they can drink the public water during the day.  
Most bottled water has the fluoride taken out.  It is very important to drink water with fluoride in it so drinking tap water is preferred.  Check the labels of bottled water to make sure it has fluoride added to it.
Baby bottle tooth decay happens when babies get liquids with sugar in a bottle or sippy cup and are exposed to it for a long period of time, such as bedtime. All liquids except water have sugar in them, including formula and milk. Some liquids even have acids in them, like soda pop or fruit juices. Cavities form and tooth decay can destroy the teeth if this is allowed to happen on a regular basis.  Water without flavoring can be put in baby bottles and sippy cups between meals. Most babies/young children adjust to having water very well.
Absolutely. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), along with the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agree that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay.
According to the ADA, it is safe to use fluoridated water to mix infant formula. The risk if mixing infant formula with fluoridated water is mild fluorosis. Mild fluorosis is a cosmetic problem only. If you have concerns about this, talk with your pediatrician or dentist.
Although using fluoridated water to prepare infant formula might increase the risk of dental fluorosis, most cases are mild.

Fluorosis usually appears as very faint white streaks on the teeth. Often it is only noticeable by a dental expert during an exam. Mild fluorosis is not painful and does not affect the function or health of the teeth.

Once your child's adult teeth come in (usually around age 8), the risk of developing fluorosis is over.
Yes, YOU CAN PREVENT CAVITIES!!   Your child can enter school and even adulthood with no cavities.  Cavities are an infection and with careful brushing after eating sugary liquids or foods, drinking fluoridated water, getting fluoride varnish applied, and seeing your dentist regularly, CAVITIES CAN BE PREVENTED!

Fluoride Varnish

Fluoride varnish is a topical fluoride treatment. It is placed on all surfaces of teeth, including the front, back, chewing surfaces, and between the teeth.  It is brushed on the teeth with a small brush, and is as simple as putting nail polish on your fingernails.  It takes less than 5 minutes to apply to the teeth.
Fluoride varnish is very safe. It is considered noninvasive procedure. That means it is not put into the body.  Fluoride varnish dries immediately and is not absorbed into the body. 
Fluoride strengthens the healthy enamel or surface of teeth.  It also remineralizes sick enamel.  It can strengthen teeth that have already become weakened and will reverse early damage that may have started on the teeth.
You may get fluoride in foods and in most public water in Minnesota. If you drink well water, have it tested by the state health department for fluoride content. It is also important that you use a toothpaste with fluoride. Be sure to read the label. Even though these sources of fluoride offer important protection, fluoride varnish gives your child's teeth extra protection.
Your child can have fluoride varnish applied at least four times per year. Every three months is ideal. An extra application is not harmful to your child. However, not enough fluoride can lead to cavities and tooth decay.
Your child should have fluoride varnish as soon as the first tooth erupts and every three months after that. This recommendation come from the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Academy of Family Medicine (AAFP).
Fluoride varnish is applied to all surfaces of both baby and permanent teeth. Sealants are placed only on chewing surfaces of permanent teeth. 
You can get fluoride varnish applied at a dentist's office, a medical clinic, or at a public health agency. If you see a dentist regularly, every six months for prevention services, your dentist will apply fluoride varnish at each visit.
Your child's teeth will have a yellowish color for a couple days. Do not try to brush it off. The discoloration will disappear with regular toothbrushing and eating. Once the color is gone, the varnish is no longer on the teeth. Your child can eat immediately after a fluoride varnish treatment. Give your child soft foods for the first 24 hours. Your child's teeth should not be brushed until the next day.
Your child's doctor has been trained to look at your child's teeth, teach you about how to take care of your child's teeth, and to apply fluoride varnish.  This can help you prevent cavities in your child's mouth, even if your child doesn't have a dental home.
As your child's parent or caregiver, you have the right to ask for fluoride varnish for your child.  Don't be bashful, ask for fluoride varnish.  Tell the doctor you want your child to have healthy teeth.
Your child's dentist will apply fluoride varnish two times per year. Since it is recommended to have fluoride varnish applied four times per year, ask your child's clinic to apply varnish the other two times.
Always ask what happened at the dental or medical visit if you were not present at the time.  You will also notice a yellowing color of your child's teeth that will disappear after a couple days. The discoloration you see is the varnish.
The fluoride varnish dries immediately when it is applied, so it is unlikely that any fluoride is swallowed.  Even if a small amount was swallowed during the procedure, the mixture contains a very small amount of fluoride that it is not harmful to your child.
Fluoride varnish does strengthen teeth of adults and is often applied at dental visits.