Dental decay remains a major health problem in American children. The US government estimates that tooth decay affects one fourth of children aged 2-5, and half of those aged 12-15. Decay rates continue to increase into adulthood.
What's a parent to do? The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers four simple steps to guide us as parents, Start Cleaning Teeth Early, Use the Right Amount of Fluoride Toothpaste, Supervise Brushing, and See Your Dentist Regularly.
Start Cleaning Teeth Early. As soon as you see the first tooth appear, begin wiping it with a clean, damp cloth. A newer xylitol based wipe is available as well, and could be very effective (Spiffies, My Dentists Choice Tooth Tissues).
Use the right amount of Fluoride Toothpaste. Fluoride is important for fighting cavities, but it must be used with caution in children under 6 years. Use a small amount of toothpaste, half the size of a pea. Teach your child to spit out the paste and rinse well.
For those uncomfortable with fluoride in very young children, I believe newer xylitol based pastes are an exceptional alternative (Epic, Natural Dentist Healthy Teeth Paste).
Simple Steps for Kids Smiles from the CDC (page 1 of 2)