Parents, caregivers urged to help children establish good dental habits

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month
February 2, 2024

Did you know that tooth decay is the No. 1 chronic health problem among children, although decay is largely preventable? In California, 61% of third graders have experienced tooth decay and 22% have untreated tooth decay. Disparities related to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status also exist with 72% of Latino and 72% of disadvantaged children experiencing some form of tooth decay.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and the California Dental Association urges parents and caregivers to practice good oral health habits with their children to prevent tooth decay.

“We can help children prevent oral diseases by establishing a dental hygiene routine at an early age, which is essential to maintaining good oral health throughout life,” said CDA President Carliza Marcos, DDS. “Brushing for two minutes, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and seeing a dentist for regular checkups will help keep teeth and gums healthy.”

When left untreated, cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking and learning. California children miss approximately 874,000 days of school each year due to dental problems.

Start at an early age to keep children’s oral health intact:

  • Cavity-causing bacteria pass through the transfer of saliva, so provide family members with their own toothbrush, spoon, fork or cup.
  • Wipe infants’ gums twice a day with a washcloth.
  • Clean pacifiers and bottles with soap and water, not spit.
  • Put only water in a baby’s bottle at bedtime.
  • Help children brush and floss until they master the skill – usually around age 7.

Bacteria feed on what children eat and drink, so CDA also suggests avoiding sugary food and drinks, limiting between-meal snacks and drinking plenty of water, especially after meals, to help prevent tooth decay.

”It is important for parents to understand the significance of good oral health to a child’s well-being,” said Marcos. “Children need their teeth to eat properly, talk, smile and feel good about themselves.”

To set up an interview with a dentist about the importance of good oral health habits, contact Alicia Malaby at Patient/parent interviews may also be available on request.

About the California Dental Association

The California Dental Association represents organized dentistry in the state of California. Founded in 1870, CDA is committed to the success of our members in service to their patients and the public. CDA also contributes to the oral health of Californians through various comprehensive programs and advocacy. CDA’s membership consists of more than 27,000 dentists, making it the largest constituent of the American Dental Association. For more information, visit

# # #


Was this resource helpful?