When you think of diseases and sicknesses keeping kids out of school, you probably don’t think of cavities and tooth decay. But anyone who’s been struck with a toothache knows how physically debilitating and downright uncomfortable they can be. Take a page from George Hatzigiannis and do everything you can to help your kids keep tooth decay and cavities at bay so they’ll have great smiles and have one less reason not to go to school and get a good education.

Develop a Tooth Brushing Routine Habits are easy to develop and hard to break, so make sure all the habits your kids develop are healthy ones. When it comes to their teeth, they should brush at least twice a day and floss after every meal. While they might not like how much time this takes out of their day at first, express to them that their diligence is sure to pay off in their later years when their mouths aren’t filled with holes and signs of decay.

Limit Their Sugar Intake Obviously, you also want your kids to limit the amount of sugar they eat and drink, as sugar is the biggest culprit behind cavities and tooth decay. Have your kids try out food and drink that have natural sugar, like fruit and fruit juice. But even then, it’s best to do what you can to make sure they don’t eat or drink too much, as too much sugar is just as bad for their bodies as it is their mouths.

Schedule Regular Checkups One thing to keep in mind with tooth decay is that it’s rather sneaky. You often don’t even know your teeth have started to decay until you experience pain or chipping. For that reason, it’s essential your kids keep up with their dentist appointments, so you can catch the first indications of decay and address them before they lead to more damage (and spending) than necessary.

Use Fluoride When your kids do brush, they should do so with a toothpaste that contains fluoride, which is designed to protect the teeth. If you like, you can have your kids spit out the excess toothpaste rather than rinse their mouths out when they’re done brushing. What this does is allow the fluoride to remain on their teeth and continue to protect them. If you’re worried about your kids swallowing a small bit of toothpaste, check with your dentist to see if there’s a special kind of paste or mouthwash your kids can use that provides their teeth and mouths with round-the-clock protection.

Remember to Cut Down on Acidic Drink and Food In addition to sugary food and drink, it’s best to have your kids stay away from food and drink that’s overly acidic, such as orange juice. While the juice is healthy, it wears away at tooth enamel. At the very least, have your kids follow up a glass of orange juice with water. That way, they’ll get their vitamins and wash away any acidic residue that might gather on their teeth.

Eat a Well-Balanced Diet Strengthening and protecting teeth has to do with more than brushing. Kids should also have a diet that consists of healthy, nutrient-rich foods to fortify their teeth even more against decay. Focus on helping your child eat from each major food group every day, including milk, cheese, yogurt; fruits; vegetables; pieces of bread, cereals and other grains; and meat, poultry, and fish. Any snacking done between meals should be as healthy as possible, and don’t forget brushing after those snacks to prevent plaque buildup!

Do what you can to take an active role in your kids’ dental health. The above suggestions and a little diligence could minimize unnecessary visits to the dentist to address equally unnecessary cavities.

Mitch Carvalho

A full-time home-based Marketing Manager by day, 24/7 Mom, and a Blogger at any time. I’m 43 and proud. Mom of Derelle & Erchelle, sharing my adventures as I walk through motherhood and having to do most things on my own while my Indian national husband works miles away from home.