The Surprising Truth About Cavities

Help Keep Decay Away

Babies

  • Clean your baby's gums even before her first teeth erupt. Wipe them with a damp washcloth after feedings.
  • Start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Wet a baby toothbrush and gently rub it back and forth on the surface of the tooth and along the gum line. If you use toothpaste, make sure it's fluoride-free.

Preschoolers

  • Brush your own teeth at the same time as your child brushes, and give him lots of positive feedback.
  • Studies have found that manual toothbrushes are just as effective as powered ones. But if letting your kid use an electric or battery-operated one makes it easier to get her to brush, go for it.

Toddlers

  • Brush your child's teeth for at least 30 seconds (ideally a minute) after breakfast and before bed. Lean her head on your lap and place the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth.
  • Start using a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste when she's 2 or 3 years old. Begin flossing teeth for him when two of his teeth are touching.

School-Age Kids

  • Your child can start brushing and flossing on her own at around age 7. If she can tie her own shoes, chances are she's ready to brush solo. She should now brush for two minutes.
  • Look for food and plaque around the gum line of her teeth to see whether she's doing a sufficient job. You can also let her chew gum with Xylitol.

Smart Mouths

  • Dr. Fresh Float'N Fire Fly. This confetti-filled brush blinks for a minute to let your child know how long he needs to brush.
  • DenTek Fun Flossers with Fluoride. Individual handheld flossers are easier for you -- and your child -- to use.
  • Orajel Toddler Training Toothpaste. Seeing Thomas on the tube of this fluoride-free brand may make your child more willing to open wide.

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