Healthy teeth contribute to a child’s overall health and well-being. Children’s teeth are important for eating, talking and smiling.

Tooth decay is preventable, yet it is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases.

Tooth decay can:

  • be very painful
  • lead to infections and possibly require hospital care
  • lead to difficulties in learning, talking, and playing
  • lead to poor nutrition and growth
  • cause sleeping problems
  • cause poor self-esteem
  • be expensive to treat if not treated early

Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar from food and form an acid. The longer acid is in the mouth, the greater the chance that this acid will make holes in the teeth. These holes are tooth decay, also called “cavities”.

Sugar + Bacteria = Acid

Acid + Teeth = Decay

Saliva washes away the food in the mouth and helps to stop tooth decay. During sleep there is less saliva in the mouth.

Never put baby to bed with food, juice or milk.

  • Good nutrition helps keep children’s teeth healthy. Follow Canada’s Food Guide to support your healthy eating journey. Have plenty of vegetables and fruits, eat protein foods and choose whole grain foods.
  • Offer nutritious, tooth-friendly snacks such as plain yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, grated hard cheese, raw or cooked vegetables and fruit, nut butters, hummus, whole grain crackers and bread or unsweetened cereals. If your child has food allergies consult their health care provider for alternative options that are both nutritious and safe for their dietary needs.
  • Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. Breast milk is all the food your baby needs for the first six months. You may want to continue to breastfeed your baby for two years or longer.
  • You can offer fluids such as water in an open cup providing help by holding the cup against your baby’s mouth from six months of age. Sippy cups are not recommended. Children should be drinking all fluids from an open cup by one year.
  • Avoid foods high in sugar such as candy, sweet baked goods and cereals, pop, fruit drinks, dried fruit and juices.
  • If you sometimes give your child sweets, serve them with meals. There is more saliva in the mouth during meals and this will help to wash away the sugar. Give a sip of water after the meal.
  • Offer a teething ring made of firm rubber that is cooled in the fridge. Do not offer frozen teething rings
  • Give baby a clean, damp washcloth to chew on
  • Don’t give teething biscuits to your baby, they contain added sugar and can be a choking hazard
  • Soothers or pacifiers are not recommended, they can make breastfeeding more difficult and can harm teeth
  • Avoid sharing spoons or toothbrushes with your baby

Remember: High fever, severe diarrhea and vomiting are not common signs of teething. If these symptoms occur, take your baby to their doctor or health care provider.

  • If your baby doesn’t have teeth, wipe the gums with a clean, soft cloth after feeding.
  • It is important that mouth cleaning or tooth brushing be part of the daily routine for all infants, including those who are breastfed.
  • Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth. Use a soft toothbrush to brush their teeth twice a day. The most important time to brush is before bedtime, after the last feeding.
  • Children younger than three years of age should have their teeth brushed only with water.
  • Start using toothpaste with fluoride when your children are three years of age and only if they can spit it out. A pea-sized amount of toothpaste is enough.
  • If your child can’t spit out the toothpaste, just use a soft toothbrush and water. Do not let your child swallow or eat toothpaste.
  • Once a month, lift your baby’s lip to check their teeth. If you see chalky white or brown spots on the teeth that can’t be washed away, visit a dentist as soon as possible. These spots are tooth decay.
  • Children usually have their first dental visit at one year of age. Toronto Public Health provides free non-emergency and emergency dental care for eligible children and youth (0 – 17 years of age).
  • If you have questions or concerns, call your dentist or Toronto Public Health.