Smiling BabyTooth decay is declining in everyone except among preschoolers. What can you do to give your kids a better future?

Before the first tooth comes in, wipe baby’s mouth clean with a damp washcloth. Once a tooth emerges, use a soft toothbrush twice daily for about 3 minutes. Kids are old enough to brush their own teeth when they can write their own name (which displays the dexterity required for brushing).

Flossing begins when teeth grow to touch each other. Try flavored floss, and check out those convenient floss sticks.

Choose fluoridated toothpaste. Use a pea-sized squeeze, pushed down into the bristles so kids won’t lick it off.

Sealants are credited with contributing to a drop in the rate of tooth decay. Once molars emerge, sealants can be applied to eliminate any hiding place for decay causing germs.

Snacks and meals can contribute to strong teeth as well. Replace sugar-packed processed foods with milk, cheese and raw veggies. And beverages (even fruit juices) are high in decay-promoting sugar, so quench your kids’ between-meals thirst with water.

Set a good example by eating and drinking healthy. Make brushing and flossing a family activity.

Dental exams should start before a child’s first birthday and continue every six months.