5 Habits That Ruin Kids’ Dental Health

Your kid’s dental health is set in motion before the first baby tooth sprouts.


Your kid’s dental health is set in motion before the first baby tooth sprouts. So, it’s essential to start promoting healthy dental habits for your child from day one, as well as keep on encouraging them until they leave for college.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 19 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 have untreated tooth decay. But childhood tooth decay is actually preventable, especially when parents help their kids avoid bad dental habits and encourage good ones. Dental health habits, both good and bad, tend to form early. To get your childs’ teeth off to a healthy start, avoid these poor dental habits.

1. Swallowing toothpaste

Fluoride is a mineral that fights tooth decay and is considered good for your kids' teeth. In fact, in communities that don’t have enough fluoride in the water system, dentists might suggest fluoride supplements beginning at six months old.

However, too much fluoride can result in fluorosis. This is a condition that provokes white or brown spots on childs’ teeth. So, while gooey toothpaste can be fun to play with, it’s essential to teach your children not to swallow it, especially if it has fluoride.

Until your kid is old enough to be able to spit after brushing, you can use non-fluoride toothpaste specifically designed for kids’ teeth. But make sure they’re getting the right amount of fluoride with a fluoride supplement.

2. Neglecting the dentist

The worst thing you can do to your kid’s dental health is waiting until there is an issue before bringing your child to the dentist. According to the American Dental Association, kids should visit the dental specialist within six months after their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. 

During that first visit, your baby’s dentist will look for cavities and other oral issues, assess tooth decay risk, and instruct you on the proper ways to clean your baby’s teeth. During the other visits, your doctor may also suggest professional teeth cleaning. If your kid is at increased risk of tooth decay, the dentist might recommend more frequent appointments.

3. Sipping on sippy cups all-day

Once your child graduates to a sippy cup, you should avoid letting them carry it around all day or take it to bed at night (for the same reasons that using a bottle this way is unhealthy). Constantly sipping milk, juice, or any sweetened liquid doesn’t give a child's natural saliva a chance to rinse away sugars that cause tooth decay. For the best dental health, limit sippy cups to mealtime and snack time, and have your child swish and swallow with water after drinking any sugary drink.

4. Gnawing on pencils

Once your child’s off to school, don’t be surprised if you see them with a pencil in their mouth — this bad dental habit is extremely common among school kids. In addition to letting bad bacteria enter the mouth, this habit can lead to wearing away of tooth surfaces and contribute to dangerous oral injury if a kid falls while having a pen or pencil in the mouth. Most kids can break this habit once they are old enough to understand the dangers.

5. Chugging sugary sodas

Carbonated sugary colas and soft drinks are extremely bad for everybody's teeth, however, they are especially hard on newly erupted kids’ teeth. Unfortunately, statistics show that more than 20 percent of 1- and 2-year-olds are exposed to these drinks daily. Don’t let your kid develop a soft drink habit. Good parenting is the key to a child's oral health. Give your kid a healthy start to dental health with safe and nutritious food and beverage choices.