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Protecting Your Child's Teeth

Even though tooth decay—or cavities—has been on the decline for the past 30 years, it is still one of the most common chronic diseases for kids from age 6 to 19.

Protect your child’s teeth by following the tips below:

  • Have your child drink tap water that contains fluoride. To see if your community’s water is fluoridated, you can view your water system on CDC’s My Water’s Fluoride website. You can also call your water utility company and request a copy of the utility's most recent “Consumer Confidence Report.” This report provides information on the level of fluoride in your drinking (tap) water.
  • If your drinking water does not have enough fluoride to prevent tooth decay (the optimal amount of 0.7 milligrams per Liter), ask your dentist, pediatrician, family doctor, or nurse if your child needs oral fluoride supplements, such as drops, tablets, or lozenges.
  • Make sure your child brushes their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • If your child is younger than 2 years, do not use fluoride toothpaste unless your dentist or doctor tells you to. Clean your child's teeth every day as soon as the first tooth appears by brushing without toothpaste with a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and plain water.
  • If your child is younger than 6 years, watch your child brush their teeth. Make sure your child only uses a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spits it out rather than swallows it. Help your child brush until she has good brushing skills.
  • Talk to your dentist, pediatrician, family doctor, or nurse about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears.
  • By the time your child is 1 year of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics's  Brushing Up on Oral Health: Never Too Early to Start   recommends that your child visit a dentist for an initial check-up.
    Your child’s chance of getting cavities can be higher if:
    o Family members (older brothers, sisters, or parents) have cavities.
    o They eat and drink a lot of sugary foods and drinks, like soda, especially between meals.
    o They have special health care needs.
    o They wear braces or orthodontics or oral appliances.
    If any of these apply to your child, be sure to talk with your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor to make sure you are taking extra steps to protect your child’s teeth.

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