Many parents are aware of common childhood diseases, but tooth decay is not something that normally comes up in conversations about diseases. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, dental decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the United States.

So many children suffer from tooth decay from exposure to sugary drinks and less than ideal home care. I always recommend helping your child brush and floss until they are 7 or 8 years old and of course limiting the sugary drinks to mealtimes. Letting the little ones drink juice throughout the day allows a constant sugary wash over teeth thus increasing the risk for tooth decay.

Most children do not have a dental visit until they are around 5 years old, but by then problems from decay have usually already started. It is recommended that the child’s first dental visit is 6 months after the first teeth erupt. These early visits allow us to get good diet and hygiene habits started as well as check that everything is healthy in the child’s mouth.

A common misconception is that “baby teeth are not needed” and that it doesn’t matter if the child loses a tooth before it comes out naturally. The primary teeth hold the space for the permanent teeth to erupt in the proper space; therefore if the tooth or teeth are lost too early, a metal space maintainer is required.

All of this can be avoided with a few simple tips:

  • Take your child to the dentist regularly starting 6 months after the first teeth erupt
  • Wipe the baby’s teeth with a cloth and then transition to a soft bristled brush
  • Begin using a small pea size of fluoride toothpaste around two years of age
  • Brush and floss for your child until they can properly do so themselves
  • Limit sugary beverages and food between meals

Dr. Julie Pruneski is the dentist and owner of Whispering Pines Dental, located at 690 Cooper Foster Park Road in Lorain. Contact us at 440-282-2023 or Check out our website at and like us on Facebook at