Tooth decay can occur in children.


Children’s teeth are important for eating, talking and smiling.

Tooth decay can:

  • be very painful
  • lead to infections, hospital care
  • lead to difficulties in learning, talking, and playing
  • lead to poor nutrition and growth
  • cause sleeping problems
  • cause poor self-esteem
  • make teeth look ugly
  • be expensive to treat if it is not treated early

Bacteria in the mouth mix with the sugar from food and form an acid. The acid makes holes in a tooth. These holes are tooth decay. The longer the acid is in the mouth, the greater the chance of tooth decay.

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 Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, and include foods from all the four food groups.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Children should take liquids other than breast milk from an open cup after one year of age. Start giving your baby practice sips of water from a cup, with help, at six months of age or when they are able to sit up. Sippy cups are not recommended.
  • 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. Finish the meal with a sip of water.
  • Offer a teething ring made of firm rubber and 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.

  • 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. The 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.