Protect enamel from decay
From the moment the first baby tooth arrives, it needs to be cared for and protected against decay. Tooth decay (or cavities) is the most common chronic disease among children in the U.S.1 Almost half of children in the U.S. between the ages of 6 to 19 get cavities in their primary or permanent teeth.1
But not to worry, mom and dad! Help is here, in the form of fluoride.
How fluoride works
Fluoride is a natural mineral with the ability to safely slow or stop cavities from forming by strengthening the surface layer of teeth. When fluoride is absorbed into the weakened surface of a tooth, it makes the enamel stronger.2
A daily dental hygiene routine that includes the use of fluoride can help prevent decay from a young age. That includes toothpaste as soon as the first teeth appear, and mouthwash from about 6 years old.
Learn more about the power of fluoride.
Add toothpaste to your routine
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, until the age of 3, a tiny smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice) is best to use for brushing kids’ teeth.3 Then, from ages 3 to 6 years, you can move up to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.3
At this age, it’s still best to assist kids to help them get the right amount of toothpaste on the brush — and always watch them closely to avoid any excess swallowing of toothpaste.
Add mouthwash to your routine
Once your child is at least 6 years old, you can encourage them to spit out toothpaste and use a fluoride rinse instead of water. When compared to rinsing with water, a fluoride rinse can make teeth up to four times stronger.4
Rinsing once a day for one minute can help prevent up to 40% of future cavities compared to brushing alone.5 This simple step delivers added protection to places brushing may miss.
Go easy on the sugar
Sugar can play a big part in the creation of cavities. This happens because plaque acids created from bacteria and sugary foods can eat away at minerals at the surface of your teeth, which causes decay.6
When it comes to your kids’ consumption of sugar, keep in mind these guidelines from the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services:7
Avoid added sugars, especially with infants and young children
Don’t feed 100%-fruit or vegetable juices to infants under 12 months old
Most fruit intake should come from eating whole fruit — fruit juice isn’t necessary
Encourage kids to drink water
The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that community water fluoridation is safe and works to prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that adding fluoride to tap water reduces tooth decay by 25%.8
Not sure if your water is fluoridated? Check with your local water utility agency or with the CDC to find out more about water fluoridation in your community.
Make it fun
Brushing, flossing, and rinsing every day is great in theory — and in practice — but in the real world, kids don’t always agree. If your babes are resistant, see if you can make caring for their teeth something they look forward to. Here are some ideas to explore:
Play games: Turn brushing into a game by turning on a 2-minute timer and counting down, or adding a bull's-eye in the sink for spitting out toothpaste and rinse.
Offer awards: Reward good behavior by creating awards for meeting goals, such as brushing twice a day for 2 weeks straight.
Party on: Put on some favorite tunes and start a dance party! Make sure your kids can see themselves dancing in the mirror for extra entertainment.
Keep it light: Begin and end each day with a smile, and find time to share a laugh with your little ones — even when they refuse to brush. Each moment is an opportunity for a fresh start.
1. Fleming E, Afful J. Prevalence of total and untreated dental caries among youth: United States, 2015-2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 307. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2018. stacks.cdc.gov
3. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. (2018). Frequently asked questions. mychildrensteeth.org
4. Only applies to 0.05% fluoride formulas.
5. Heifetz, S.B. et al. (1982). A comparison of the anticaries effectiveness of daily and weekly rinsing with sodium fluoride solutions: final results after three years. Pediat Dent. aapd.org
7. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. DietaryGuidelines.gov