In many countries, tooth decay (and gum disease) is the second most common disease, with only the cold more common. Studies have linked poor oral health in children to poor performance in school, poor social relationships and less success in later life. But whether you’re six or sixty, with today’s technology and advances in dental medicine, it’s easier than ever before to prevent cavities and gum disease.

To help your kids grow up cavity free, here are a few tips…

  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking baby teeth don’t need as much care as permanent ones. Even though they’re eventually lost, they do an important job of holding a place in your child’s mouth for the permanent teeth.
  • Until they’re old enough for an infant-sized toothbrush, clean your baby’s teeth with a dampened piece of gauze or washcloth.
  • Once your child is old enough, help her/him to use a child-sized toothbrush. (Use only a ‘pea’ sized dot of fluoride toothpaste and don’t allow your child to swallow it.)
  • Around age six your child should be coordinated enough to brush her/his own teeth with an appropriate sized, soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Brush at least twice a day, supervising while your child is young.
  • Replace toothbrushes every three months and never allow sharing.
  • If your child has been ill, replace their toothbrush as soon as they’re feeling better.
  • Check to make sure that your child is brushing properly. Don’t let them brush too fast or hard or miss areas.
  • Your child’s teeth should be flossed at least once a day. By age nine, most children will have the skill to floss on their own.
  • Eat nutritious foods and drink healthy beverages. Limit snacks, especially sugary or sticky sweets that cling to teeth. The best time to eat sweet foods is with a meal or at the end of a meal, when natural salivation will wash most of them away.
  • Your child should have an orthodontic check-up by age seven. Many potential problems can be more easily and economically fixed during growing years.
  • Once permanent teeth have come in, talk to your dentist about dental sealants and fluoride treatments.
  • Get regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
  • Gums should not bleed after flossing or brushing. (This can be a sign of poor oral hygiene or nutritional deficiency.)
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit between meal snacks.
  • If your child has trouble using dental floss, try an interdental cleaner. Your dentist can recommend one and instruct your child on proper use.
  • Make sure your child uses a professional mouth guard for sports and play. While it won’t prevent cavities, a guard can keep your child’s teeth from being damaged. (Almost one third of all dental injuries happen in sports accidents.)

Perhaps most important of all…set an excellent example. Let your child see you taking excellent care of your teeth. Show your child how to have a healthy smile for life.