Preventing Cavities

Cavities are almost completely preventable. Cleaning your child’s teeth is an important step to prevent cavities. When your child’s teeth begin to erupt, brush them gently with a child’s size toothbrush and water. When your child can be counted on to spit and not swallow toothpaste (usually not before age two), begin brushing the teeth with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Use a child-sized toothbrush and replace it when it is worn. Bent, frayed bristles may not remove plaque effectively. Brush your child’s teeth until he or she is at least six years old. At that age you may begin to allow them to brush independently.

Proper Brushing Techniques

  1. Position your child so you can see into the mouth easily; you might want to sit, resting his or head in your lap.
  2. Place the toothbrush against the gums.
  3. Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes. Brush the outer surfaces of each tooth, upper and lower. Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces and chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  4. Finish by brushing the tongue to help freshen breath and remove bacteria.

Proper Flossing Techniques

Begin using floss when teeth begin to touch one another. Flossing helps prevent cavities between the teeth.

  1. Use about a foot and a half of floss. Wind most of it around the middle finger of both hands. Hold the floss between the thumbs and forefinger. Use a gentle, back-and-forth motion to guide the floss between the teeth.
  2. Curve the floss into a C-shape and guide it into the space between the gum and tooth until you feel resistance. Gently scrape the floss against the side of the tooth.
  3. Repeat these steps on each tooth. Don’t forget the backs of the last teeth in each corner of the mouth.


Prolonged exposure of the baby’s teeth to liquids that contain sugar, like sweetened water and fruit juice and potentially milk, breast milk and formula can cause tooth decay. Tooth decay can occur when the baby is put to bed with a bottle, or when a bottle is used as a pacifier for a fussy baby.

If your child uses a pacifier, provide one that is clean-don’t dip it in sugar or honey, or put it in your mouth before giving it to the child. The cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth can be transferred to your baby.

Encourage children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.

Healthy eating habits also include a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Serve nutritious snacks and limit sweets to mealtimes.