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Cavities or tooth decay can affect toddlers and young children.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Early Childhood Tooth Decay (ECTD) is a severe kind of decay or cavity that affects the baby teeth, especially the upper front teeth. It is caused when leftover food including milk, juice, and breastmilk is not removed from the teeth. The sugars in these foods combines with bacteria in the mouth to make an acid which softens the teeth1.


How can cavities and Early Childhood Tooth Decay be prevented?

  • Limit foods and drinks with sugar
  • Except at meals and snack times, bottles and sippy cups should only contain water
  • Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice
  • Clean your child’s mouth after each feeding by wiping gums with a clean wash cloth or piece of gauze
  • As soon as your child has teeth, clean the teeth twice a day (morning and before bed) with a small, soft toothbrush and water, or non-fluoride toothpaste
  • Soothers should not be dipped in honey or other sweeteners
  • Lift your child’s lip once a month to check teeth and gums. If you see any chalky, white or brown spots on the teeth, take your child to see a dentist

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

early childhood tooth decay
early childhood tooth decay
  • Children’s medications and chewable vitamins often contain sugar. Have your child rinse with water after taking them, and consider buying sugar-free formulas if available. 2

As soon as your child has teeth, clean the teeth twice a day, (morning and before bed)

Date of creation: January 8, 2013
Last modified on: August 31, 2018


1Health Canada Early Childhood Tooth Decay Retrieved from
2Ontario Dental Hygienist's Association Oral Health for Children - A Parent's Guide Retrieved from