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4 Ways to Reduce Early Tooth Decay in Toddlers

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is the most common chronic oral health condition among toddlers, school-aged children, and teenagers. Tooth decay starts with weakened enamel but can lead to cavities and tooth damage to the point of extraction. The good news is that you can prevent and reduce your toddler's early-stage tooth decay with the help of fluoride, good oral hygiene, and your child's dentist.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay describes weakened or damaged areas of the tooth's hard surface, called enamel. Bacteria in the mouth cause tooth decay. When you eat or drink, naturally occurring bacteria feed on the sugars and create an acidic byproduct. These acids can attack and weaken the teeth' enamel if not cleaned properly with good oral hygiene.

If the enamel breakdown process continues without intervention, the hard outer layer can develop cavities, also called dental caries. Toddler cavities cannot be reversed, but they can be treated. Your child's dentist needs to examine and treat dental caries to prevent more damage to the rest of the tooth. The good news is that there are ways you can prevent and reduce your toddler's tooth decay to ensure your child has a healthy smile.

Tooth Decay Prevention

The best ways to prevent tooth decay are good oral hygiene and a healthy diet limiting sugary foods and beverages. Following a balanced diet is one of the first things parents can do to protect their toddler's teeth from tooth decay. Nutritious meals that strike a healthy balance between all the major food groups are always best. When possible, keep sugary drinks and treats to a minimum. When your child eats fewer sugary treats, there is less fuel for the bacteria in their mouth.

How to Reduce Tooth Decay in Toddlers

Fighting tooth decay is easy with the right tools. You can work with your child's dentist and dental hygienist for a unique treatment plan if your toddler already has signs of tooth decay. Learn about these four ways you can help reduce tooth decay below:

  • Fluoride
  • Sealants
  • Good oral hygiene
  • Regular professional dental visits


Fluoride is one of the best defenses you and your kids have against early tooth decay. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, fluoride can even reverse tooth decay in the early stages. It slows down mineral loss, remineralizing and strengthening enamel. Also, it keeps bacteria in the mouth from producing acid that can wear away the teeth.

You can make sure you and your family are getting an adequate amount of fluoride by drinking fluoridated water. Lots of cities have fluoridated their public water supply. According to the American Dental Association, drinking water with fluoride reduces children's risk for tooth decay from 20% to 40%. Another way to protect their teeth is to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which helps protect against plaque and tartar buildup. Ultimately, if your child needs an extra boost of fluoride, your family dentist can make recommendations.


Sealants are another way to reduce your family's risk of tooth decay and cavities. The protective coating is applied to the teeth. It keeps bacteria and plaque from getting stuck on the uneven surface of the molars, limiting your child's risk for tooth decay. Ask your child's dentist about sealants the next time they go in for a regular checkup.

Oral Hygiene Habits

Thoroughly cleaning all teeth surfaces is the most effective way to keep your toddler's teeth clean. Teach your child the importance of cleaning their teeth in the morning, after meals, and before bedtime.

Visit the Dentist

Although following proper oral hygiene practices at home is important, regularly visiting the dentist is essential. Most dental professionals recommend that a child have their first visit to the dentist around their first birthday. Their dental professionals will examine your child's teeth and make any recommendations on future dental needs.

Tooth decay can lead to oral health issues and overall health issues, but there are ways you can prevent it and reduce it. Teach your toddler how to maintain good oral hygiene habits and visit the dentist regularly. Your child will feel better and have a healthy smile for years to come.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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