Tooth Decay

Welcome to the Missouri WIC Participant Nutrition Education website. If you are a WIC participant, please enter your name and State ID number.  Type the Household ID if more than one family member is a participant.child brushing his teeth

* WIC ID or Household ID are required

What Does a Smile Do?

This lesson is intended to teach and promote the importance of proper dental care for infants.

Have you ever seen this before?

Tooth Decay

Decay or cavities can start before your baby even has teeth. The baby or primary teeth are important to your child. They help your child chew food easily, speak clearly, and act as spacers for permanent teeth. Decay can be painful and can also place the child at risk for increased infections and illness.

The four most important causes of Tooth Decay are:

  1. Enamel defects or a tooth that is susceptible to decay
  2. High carbohydrate intake in the infant's diet
  3. Oral hygiene of the mother and baby
  4. Milk pooling in the babies mouth from a dripping bottle 

OBJECTIVES: By the end of this session you will be able to:

  • Choose one method for cleaning your infants' gums/teeth
  • Choose two benefits of healthy teeth
  • Observe the difference between healthy and unhealthy teeth
  • Select a teething method that may work for your child
  • Name two ways to wean your baby from a bottle
  • Identify two snacks that are tooth healthy

Activity 1



Dental care is important because...

It keeps your child's teeth healthy for:

  • chewing
  • speaking
  • healthy adult teeth
  • overall health
  • avoid the pain of dental procedures due to unhealthy teeth  

What happens if your infant loses his/her teeth too early?

  • Permanent teeth will be affected; they may come in crowded or out of alignment.

When should dental care for infants begin?

  • At birth! Wiping your infant's gums at least once a day with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad will help reduce plaque build up.
  • A small soft baby toothbrush can also be used!

What is Plaque?

  • It's important to remove plaque from your baby's gums even before teeth appear.
  • What is plaque?  It is a soft, sticky, and colorless film that is made up of germs that live on your infant's teeth and gums all the time.
  • Plaque must be removed daily to prevent the germs from making acid and other products that can cause cavities, and damage the gums and bone around the teeth.
  • Toothpaste

When should teeth brushing begin?

  • Begin brushing your child's teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.
  • Not all children will cooperate, but you should insist upon doing this.
  • It is very important to clean your baby's teeth before bedtime.
  • Start dental visits by your child's first birthday.  If you think your child has dental problems, take him/her to the dentist as soon as possible.

Activity 2

Childhood Caries

 * 1. You don't need to brush or clean your baby's mouth until they get teeth?

 * 2. Your child is not at risk for infection or illness if he has dental decay.

 * 3. After each feeding, wipe the child's teeth and gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad, to remove plaque.

*  4. Children who have cavities or teeth removed are not at risk for poor nutrition.

 * 5. You should always help your children brush their teeth.

What is Early Childhood Caries (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)?

baby bottle
  • The destruction of the first teeth caused by allowing a baby's teeth and gums to bathe in sugary-rich liquids for a long time
  • This destruction is characterized by cavities, usually on the top front teeth.
  • The cavities may look like brown stains, soft spots, holes, or broken teeth.  White spots can be baby bottle tooth decay.  They look very white and dull on the tooth.  These can develop into decay in as little as 30 days.

How does Baby Bottle Tooth Decay happen?

  • Usually when an infant is allowed to drink from a bottle too often, especially when the baby goes to sleep with the bottle.
  • When an infant falls asleep with the bottle in her mouth, the juice or milk will cause bacteria to make (acid) plaque on the teeth or gums.
  • Plaque can eventually lead to cavities that can cause painful toothaches and make it hard for the infant to eat.
  • When babies are given bottles to fall asleep with, there is also a chance of ear infection from fluid drainage into the ear.

Activity 3

*  1. It's OK to let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth.

*  2. You should coat a pacifier in sugar to make it taste better.

*  3. Bacteria grows faster in sugar.

*  4. Babies can get ear infections from falling asleep with a bottle in the mouth.


When do a baby's primary teeth come in?baby teething

  • It varies from baby to baby.
  • Primary teeth generally come in around 6-9 months and most babies have all their baby teeth by the time they are 2 years old.

What can you do to make teething easier for your baby?

  • Provide cold teething rings.
  • Give your baby a cool, clean washcloth to chew on.  Or try teething tablets, and rub your baby's gums with clean fingers.

Weaning and Healthy Snack Foods

How do I get my child to fall asleep (without using a bottle filled with juices or formulas?)

  • Establish a new bedtime routine.
  • If your baby needs a bottle for comfort, fill it with plain water, or use a clean orthopedic pacifier (never one dipped in honey or sugar)
  • Offer your baby a blanket, stuffed animal, or music instead of a bottle. 
  • Hold or rock your baby to sleep.
  • Your baby will learn it is nighttime by the patterns you establish.  There may be some resistance and tears for the first few days, but pediatricians find that children adapt easily - usually in less than a week.
  • Introduce juice in a cup - bottles should only be used for formula or water.
  • milk
  • Your baby should be off the bottle around his/her first birthday.

Snacks for Healthy Teeth (~8 months and older)

  • Foods low in sugar like WIC cereals as opposed to high sugar cereals. WIC cereals low in sugar are, Rice Chex, Kix, Life and Corn Flakes.
  • Foods that contain:
    Protein: meat, beans, peanut butter
    Calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese
    Vitamin A: carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, cantaloupe
    Vitamin C: citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas, mangoes
    Vitamin D: fortified milk, egg yolk, fatty fish
  • Minimize foods that are high in sugar (cookies, candies, kool-aid, soda, etc.)
  • Use caution with foods that can cause choking hazards such as grapes, popcorn, nuts, peanut butter, hotdogs, celery, carrots and apples.

Now let's review:

Thank you for completing the Tooth Decay Education Component. 

* Which LWP WIC Office do you go to?  

 * Where are you taking today's lesson?

You have completed the infant Class on “Tooth Decay”.  If you have any questions or comments, please contact your LWP nutritionist who will be glad to answer any of your questions. 

Anti-Spam Validation:

To prove you're a person (not a spam script), type the security text shown in the picture. Text is case sensitive.