Great dental hygiene is, first and foremost, a result of good habits started early. This is one of the best gifts you can give your child, setting him or her on the path to a lifetime of dental health. And this is no small matter—a child with a healthy mouth tends to be healthier and happier in general. Dental pain can lead to all sorts of issues with nutrition, self-esteem, academics and even speech.

The good news is you are not on your own. With Barrie Barber Choate, DDS, MSD, PA as your child's dental "home," our team's goal is to provide a nurturing and positive experience for each patient. We will help by teaching you and your children good habits, educating you about common pitfalls and fixing any little problems before they become big. We will meet with you every six months to monitor the dental needs of your children and keep building on their base of good dental habits. Consistency is crucial to ongoing dental health.



A healthy diet can go a long way towards preventing cavity formation. Just like the rest of the body, the teeth, bones, and soft tissues of the mouth thrive when given a variety of nutritious foods.  Unfortunately, most popular children’s snacks are high in sugar and are the chief perpetrators behind cavities. Giving your child candy, mints, sugary gum, or anything else that stays in the mouth for a prolonged period greatly increases the formation of plaque and cavities. Offer your child other healthy options like veggies, cheese, nuts, and yogurt (check the sugar content—many children’s yogurt contain a lot!).  



The purpose of oral hygiene is to remove bacteria deposits that combine with leftover food particles to form cavities. If you are a parent to a baby or young child, use a wet washcloth or gauze to wipe plaque from teeth and gums after feedings. Do not send your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing any other beverage besides water. 

Parents of older children: make sure your child’s teeth are brushed at least twice a day and every other time they have been eating a sweet snack. 

Get your child in a regular routine of seeing the pediatric dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends visits every six months, beginning after a child’s first birthday.  Some pediatric dentists may offer protective sealants or home fluoride treatments to prevent decay on hard to clean surfaces. 



Dentists sometimes recommend sealants for children, who have a high susceptibility for developing cavities. A sealant is a clear or shaded plastic material that is applied to the chewing surfaces of the back of the teeth, where four out of five cavities in children are found. This material serves as a barrier to food, plaque, and acid, protecting the teeth from decay. 



Fluoride is a substance that, used in correct amounts, can be greatly beneficial to teeth. Too much fluoride can actually hurt teeth, while too little can leave teeth weak and susceptible to cavity development. When young children ingest too much fluoride, they may develop an unpleasant dental condition called fluorosis, which can leave chalky white or brown discoloration on permanent teeth. Many foods and beverages contain fluoride, which is why it is extremely important as a parent to be aware of how much your child is ingesting on a regular basis. Some sources include, but are not limited to: 

  • Fluoridated toothpaste—exposing your child to too much fluoride at early age can be detrimental. 

  • Misuse of fluoride supplements 

  • Fluoride in drinking water or other foods 

Young children may not be physically able yet to spit out fluoridated toothpaste when brushing, leading to the swallowing of excessive amounts of fluoride.  If this is the case, it’s ok to brush with a fluoride-free toothpaste or just water until your child is able to spit out toothpaste. 

Fluoride drops and tablets as well as fluoride-fortified vitamins should not be given to infants younger than six months of age. As a general rule, these supplements should only be administered to children (of any age) under a pediatrician or pediatric dentist’s recommendation. 

Foods with high levels of fluoride include powdered infant formula, soy-based formula, infant dried cereals, creamed spinach, and infant chicken products. Make sure to read the label on all foods before giving them to your child. Beverages that often contain fluoride include decaffeinated teas, white grape juice, and juice drinks manufactured in locations where water sources are treated with fluoride. 

Here are some ways you can decrease your child’s chances of developing fluorosis: 

  • Use baby tooth cleanser on the toothbrush of very young children

  • Use no more than a pea-sized drop of toothpaste when brushing

  • Make sure you can account for all supplemental sources of fluoride your child receives

  • Do not give fluoride-containing supplements to infants younger than 6 months of age. 

  • Check with your local water utilities to obtain a fluoride level test of your drinking water. 



If your child is interested in participating in recreational sporting activities, it is safe to assume the possibility of injury at one time or another. This is why it’s a good idea to supply your child with a properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector to use during activities where a blow to the face or mouth is possible. Usually this applies to all team sports, and certainly all contact sports. 

Using a mouth guard is an easy way to prevent broken teeth and injuries to the lips, tongue, face, or jaw. It’s also important to make sure the mouth guard fits properly, staying in place during movement and allowing your child to talk and breathe normally. 

Ask your pediatric dentist about a fitting or a custom mouth guard or some recommended ready-made options. 



Xylitol has been recognized by the AAPD for the benefits it brings to the oral health of infants, children, adolescents, and people with special health requirements. It appears in nature in small amounts, being found in fruits, berries, mushrooms, lettuce, hardwoods, and corncobs. 

Research has shown that using xylitol consistently as a sugar substitute or dietary addition has an extremely positive effect on curbing new tooth decay, and in some cases, can even reverse existing dental caries. Xylitol’s most notable characteristic is that it enhances all existing prevention methods for tooth decay, with long lasting and possibly permanent effects. 

Mothers who start using xylitol gum (2-3 times per day) beginning 3 months after delivery till their children turned two experienced 70% less cavities in the first five years after giving birth. 

Positive results from the intake of xylitol begin with as little as 4 grams up to 20 and are typically divided into 3-7 consumption periods. Higher or lower intake amounts or frequencies than these were not effective in the same way. 

An easy way to incorporate xylitol in your diet is to use gum or other products made from 100% xylitol. These can be found at local heath food stores and online. 

Beware of Sports Drinks

Sports drinks contain a deceivingly high amount of sugar and can erode away enamel, leading to cavities. 

Children should be encouraged to hydrate with water before, during, and after participating in sports, avoiding sports drinks entirely if possible. In situations where sports drinks are consumed, keep in mind the following:

  • Try reducing the frequency and time-lengths of consumption 

  • Swallow immediately; do not swish in mouth 

  • Alternate sips of sports drinks with sips of water to neutralize effect

  • Rinse mouth guards with water only 

  • Try to purchase low-sugar or no-sugar sports drinks as a dentally-friendly alternative