There are several ways to help prevent tooth decay in infants and toddlers.
Before your child’s teeth begin to come in, wipe the gums after feedings with a damp cloth. As soon as the first tooth erupts, begin brushing with a child-sized toothbrush and water. Don’t use any toothpaste that contains fluoride until your child is two years old. While research has shown some benefits to fluoride, my belief is that it is not necessary if you practice good dental hygiene, and I recommend an all-natural toothpaste.
Never send your child to bed with a bottle, and if using a pacifier, make sure it is clean. Do not dip pacifiers in honey, sugar-water, or any other sugar-containing substance before giving it to your child. Encourage your child to drink from a cup as soon as possible, or by the first birthday.
When you start using toothpaste, use only a pea-sized amount. It is especially important to observe this guideline if your child does not fully understand how to spit. You should brush your child’s teeth until they have the desire to take over. At that point, be sure to supervise while your child brushes and finish the job yourself by making sure that all the teeth have been brushed. Continue supervised brushing until your child is six or seven years old.
Try to stay away from sugary foods. If your child eats something sugary, follow it with water, or have him rinse and spit. Make sure you promote healthy eating habits.
Tooth decay in your child’s mouth causes just as much pain and discomfort as tooth decay in your own mouth, so be sure to practice good oral hygiene habits with your kids. Learning good habits early on will make it more likely that those habits will continue into adulthood.