Tooth Decay - Prevention
Gently work the floss between the teeth toward the gums.
Curve the floss around each tooth into a U-shape, and gently slide it under the
gum line. Move the floss firmly up and down several times to scrape off the
plaque. Popping the floss in and out between the teeth without scraping will
not remove much plaque and can hurt your gums.
You may want to try
electric cleaning devices (interdental cleaning devices or interdental brushes)
that are made to clean between your teeth. They can be as effective as using
If your gums bleed when you floss, the bleeding
should stop as your gums become healthier.
- Eat many types of food, especially whole grains, vegetables,
and fruits, and food that is low in saturated fat and sodium. Good nutrition is
vital for children as their teeth develop, and for adults to maintain healthy
gums and avoid tooth decay.
- Mozzarella and other cheeses, peanuts, yogurt, milk,
and sugar-free chewing gum (especially gum that contains xylitol) are good for
your teeth. They help clear your mouth of harmful sugars and protect against
plaque. These make great after-meal snacks.
- Avoid foods that
contain a lot of sugar, especially sticky, sweet foods like taffy and raisins.
The longer sugar stays in contact with your teeth, the more damage the sugar
- Avoid between-meal snacks.
- Do not snack before
bedtime, as food left on the teeth is more likely to cause cavities at night.
Saliva production decreases while you sleep, so saliva does not clean your
mouth well during sleeping hours.
Caring for your child's teeth
A child's dental
care really starts with his or her mother's healthy pregnancy, because baby
teeth begin to form before birth. If you are pregnant, eat a balanced,
nutritious diet. And be sure to get enough vitamins
and minerals. Pregnant women should have a complete dental exam and get
treatment for any cavities or gum disease. For more information, see the topic
By the time your child is 6
months of age, your doctor should assess the likelihood of your child having
future dental problems.3 This may include a dental
exam of the mother and her dental history, as the condition of her teeth can
often predict her child's teeth. If the doctor thinks your child will have
dental problems, be sure your child sees a dentist by his or her first birthday
or 6 months after the first primary teeth appear, whichever comes first. After
your first visit, schedule regular visits every 6 months or as your dentist
Experts recommend that your child's dental care start
at 12 months of age.3
It's best to start
good oral health habits before permanent teeth come in.
- Parents and caregivers often share spoons, forks, and other
utensils with babies. The saliva you may leave on the utensil contains bacteria
that can cause tooth decay. Sometimes kissing can also transfer
bacteria. You can help prevent early childhood tooth decay in your child by
making sure that your family practices good dental health habits.
- Do not put your infant or small child to bed with a bottle of
milk, formula, juice, or any other product that contains sugar. The sugar and
acids in these liquids can cause tooth decay (bottle mouth ). Do not
prop the bottle up in your baby's mouth, and remove the bottle as soon as your
baby is done feeding or is asleep. Breast-feeding your infant to sleep is safe.
fluoride supplements with your dentist if your local
water supply does not contain enough fluoride. To find out, call your local
water company or health department. If you have your own well, have your water
checked to find out whether your family needs fluoride supplements. You may
also need to provide fluoride to your children if you use bottled water for
cooking or drinking. Normal amounts of fluoride added to public water supplies and bottled water are safe for children and adults. If your child needs extra fluoride, your dentist may recommend supplements. Use these supplements only as directed. And keep them out of reach of your child. Too much fluoride can be toxic and can stain a child?s teeth.
- If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash. Be sure
that your child does not swallow the mouthwash.
- Keep your child away from cigarette
smoke (secondhand smoke). Tobacco may lead to tooth decay and gum
disease.1 As your child grows, teach him or her about
the dangers of tobacco and secondhand smoke.
- Consider having your
dentist or dental hygienist put a
sealant into the grooves of the chewing surfaces of
your child's back teeth to help prevent cavities.