Tooth decay has the dubious distinction of being the #1 chronic childhood illness in America. According to the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation®, one in five children go without dental care and more than 40% of children have cavities by the time they reach kindergarten.

Beyond the immediate health concerns this represents, kids with poor oral health are three times more likely to miss school as a result of dental pain. As far as we know, that doesn’t include playing hooky by faking a toothache.

If left untreated, severe tooth decay can lead to undernourishment, anemia, emergency surgery, life-threatening secondary infections and even death. But even though dental cavities are largely preventable, they are still the most common chronic disease of kids and teenagers between the ages of 6 to 19.

On the positive side, these numbers used to be worse. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has called water fluoridation one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century for how it has contributed to the decline of the rate of tooth decay. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that added to the drinking water in most cities.

So—beyond drinking fluoridated water, how can you help your kids fight tooth decay? Here are a few simple tips to help:

  1. Start proper oral care immediately after birth by wiping gums after each feeding.
  2. A child should see a pediatric dentist by his first birthday or when the first tooth comes in, typically between ages six to 12 months.
  3. Oversee brushing and flossing until around age nine.
  4. And schedule dental checkups every six months. Of course, to find a trusted dentist near you, visit