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Prevention is the Name of the Game

For dental tips, visit www.cdc.gov/oralhealth.

For dental tips, visit www.cdc.gov/oralhealth. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen and photo by Airman 1st Class Tybee Hurst/Released)


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, cavities are one of the most common conditions effecting children in the United States. Approximately one in five children, ages 5 to 11, have at least one decaying tooth. Cavities form when the plaque in your child’s mouth, gums and tongue feed off sugars and starches that create an acid and attack their teeth.


The good news is that cavities are extremely preventable. Brushing and flossing, nutritional adjustments and regular dental visits can all hugely impact your child’s overall oral health. Tooth decay can begin as soon as their first tooth appears so you can never start too soon teaching good oral hygiene habits.


Brushing and flossing are the simplest actions that can be taken to secure your child with a healthy mouth. Twice daily, use a pea-sized amount of American Dental Association approved fluoride toothpaste. The ADA recommends if the child is under 3 years of age to use a smear, or rice-grain sized amount on a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently rotate in small circles along the gum line. If the child is under 6, monitor them and make sure they spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it. Since flossing removes food debris and plaque between your child’s teeth that brushing misses, you should begin flossing for your child once daily as soon as teeth that touch erupt.


According to National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, fluoride helps to repair and strengthen enamel due to demineralization and even decreases the bacteria’s ability to produce decay. It is important to expose children as early as 6 months to fluoride. Children living in areas with fluoridated tap water have historically had fewer cavities than those who do not. A dentist or doctor should be consulted to discuss your child’s specific needs for fluoride treatment.


Whenever food or drink is consumed, teeth eroding acids in the mouth rise. Thoughtful planning of meals and snacks can reduce the acidity in your child’s mouth and allow for the remineralization of enamel. The NIDCR advises against providing your child with anything that contains sugar or starch after bedtime brushing as the protective saliva production is decreased during sleep.


The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests having your child’s first dental visit by the age of 1. Along with home care, regular dental checkups and cleanings you’re ensuring your child has a lifetime of healthy smiles.