There are many preventative measures that you can take when it comes to avoiding decay in your children’s teeth but most of them have to do with diet and dental habits. Dental habits are something that kids often learn from their parents based on how well they see their parents take care of their own teeth, and how strongly they encourage their children to do the same.

Taking preventative steps against tooth decay is important as soon as your child gets their first tooth, which is usually around 6 months. According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42% of children age 2-5 experience cavities in their primary teeth. By starting healthy dental habits from a young age, you can help your children avoid these pesky cavities.

We have put together a list of tips so that you can ensure great dental health in your little one that they will remember throughout their whole life.

Avoid sugary foods and snacks. Sugary snacks are the main culprit when it comes to cavities. So many foods contain unhealthy sugars and you might not even realize it. For example, even cough drops, mints, and gum contain sugar that can contribute to the bacterial buildup. If your child does enjoy a sugary treat, encourage them to brush their teeth afterward to prevent plaque and bacteria build-up.

Avoid sticky foods. Just like they sound, sticky foods like peanut butter or candies like starbursts stay on your teeth longer because they are harder for your saliva to wash off. In addition to lingering on the teeth, they generally have added sugars which can cause build-up on the teeth. If your child is enjoying sticky treats, be sure they brush their teeth after so that you can avoid build-up.

Limit snacking to 1-2 times a day. When kids are constantly eating, there is little time for their saliva to wash away the bacteria.

Buy sugar-free or unsweetened foods. By serving sugar-free or unsweetened foods, you are eliminating the sugar aspect of build-up on your teeth. Sugar-free foods might taste a little different at first, but your taste buds will grow accustomed to this flavor in a short time.

Serve sugary treats and desserts only with meals. Based on the previous tips, sugary foods are something that should be avoided and immediately washed away if consumed. By serving sugary treats with meals there is a better chance that the residue will be washed away by your saliva. While you are eating, your mouth produces more saliva and you are usually consuming a drink that will aid in the process. So, if your child insists on a sugary treat – try to serve it after dinner. Plus, eating other food will help fill everyone up faster, which makes them less prone to overindulging on sweets.

Serve cheese! Cheeses like Cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Swiss promote salvia – which aids in the process of rinsing out bacterias. This can also double as a yummy, healthy snack!

Brush with fluoride toothpaste and rinse with a fluoridated mouthwash. Fluoride is beneficial when it comes to dental health. According to The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, It is preventative for cavities and has also been found to repair mild cavities. Check to make sure your toothpaste has fluoride in it. If not, when you buy your next tube make sure you choose one that has fluoride and pick up a fluoridated mouthwash as well. It does not change the taste of the toothpaste and mouthwash; all it does it help make your teeth stronger and healthier!

Serve fluoridated water to your children. Children can and should have a pint of fluoridated water every day. You can find fluoride in many bottled waters today in brands like Poland Springs — just take a look at the ingredients. Some communities have fluoride in their water source. You can check to see if your city adds fluoride to its water here.

Encourage flossing! Flossing is the most frequently missed hygiene habit. Flossing removes leftover food, plaque, and bacteria from between the teeth. You can use traditional floss or floss picks that make it a bit easier.

Visit the dentist regularly. Children are due for a dental visit every 6 months, but talk to your doctor to see if your child needs to go more frequently. By going to the dentist regularly, you are ensuring that your child’s teeth are healthy and that good dental habits are reinforced.