Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay

kids dental office
How early can my child get a cavity?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research nearly 28% of children ages 2 to 5 develop at least one cavity and 42% of children age 2 to 11 develop at least one cavity in their primary teeth. Cavities can be serious and can lead to infection without proper care. The good news is cavities are preventable.

What causes baby and toddler tooth decay?

Cleaning habits

Even before your child grows their first tooth you should be gently cleaning their gums with a piece of gauze or washcloth. When the first tooth appears you can lightly brush with a toddler toothbrush and either water or fluoride-free toothpaste.

Baby bottle tooth decay

A common cause of tooth decay in toddlers is baby bottle tooth decay. Baby bottle tooth decay occurs when the baby goes to bed with a bottle filled with milk or juice. The milk or juice your toddler drinks before bed sits in the mouth throughout the night, which creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

Sharing of Saliva

Tooth decay can be passed from caregiver to the infant through bacteria in the saliva. This typically happens when the caregiver cleans a pacifier in his/her mouth or places the baby’s feeding spoon in his or her mouth prior to feeding the infant.


How do I protect my child from tooth decay?

Good cleaning habits. From birth to 12 months you should be wiping your baby’s gums with gauze or a washcloth. Once your child has grown some teeth you can begin brushing twice per day with a toddler toothbrush and fluoride-free toothpaste.

Only water between meals and before bed. To prevent baby bottle tooth decay babies should not be put to bed with a bottle full of anything but water. In between meals your child should be drinking water, juice and milk should only be served at mealtime, and especially not before a nap or bed.

Drink from a cup. Drinking from a bottle causes more liquid to collect around the teeth. Teach your child to drink from a cup from 12 to 15 months of age to help prevent bacteria.  If your child insists on using a sippy cup or bottle (for long car rides for example) offer only water as the beverage.

Limit sugary foods. Obvious foods like candy, gummies and cookies contain high amounts of sugar which contribute to tooth decay. Make sure to read the nutrition labels of crackers and chips because many of them contain high amounts of sugar as well.

Limit transfer of saliva. Make sure you are conscious of what you are putting in your baby’s mouth. If your child’s pacifier falls on the ground, wash it off with hot water and soap, not in the caregivers mouth. Cavity-causing bacteria can be transferred to your child via saliva. If you would like to try your child’s food before serving it, make sure you use your own utensil to prevent the spread of cavity-causing bacteria.

Dentist before the first birthday. Make an appointment with a pediatric dentist before your child turns 1 years old. The dentist will examine your child’s oral development, apply a fluoride treatment, check for any warning signs, and answer any questions you may have.