Nutrition from age two to fiveNormally, all the baby teeth have come through by three years of age. If a child refuses to eat food, or certain hard foods, it may be an indicator of a dental problem.

It is of great importance that children eat at regular intervals and avoid too many snacks in between main meals. Repeated intake of sugar rich foods will cause children to like them more and more. A lot of children who like sugary foods tend to be overweight, and eat more fat-rich diets as well. Many of the sugar- and fat-rich foods tend to promote dental decay.

As children approach the 4-5 year age range, they generally have fewer feeding and nutritional problems. However, because they are more independent, food intake between meals tends to increase. An increase in the number of snacks leads to an increased chance of dental decay.

Snacks and meals

Sound eating practices learned in infancy and toddlerhood should help with appropriate snack choices.

0-1 years of age Nutritional needs for the first year of infancy are met primarily by breast milk and/or infant formula, followed by sequential introduction of baby foods starting with fortified cereals at approximately 6 months of age.For more information, see Effect of Nutrition on Dental Health from Birth to One Year of Age.

1-2 years of age Between the age of 12 and 24 months, most of the remaining primary teeth erupt, and by the third birthday, all of the 20 primary teeth have erupted. Feeding behavior changes throughout the toddler years.For more information, see Effect of Nutrition on Dental Health from One to Two Years of Age.

The following table has three groups; the no risk categories are those foods that have essentially no contribution to decay; the low risk category has a mild effect on dental decay; and the high risk category plays a big role in dental decay if the teeth are not cleaned properly. Parents should of course concentrate on giving their children snacks from the first two columns.


Low Cariogenic

Highly Cariogenic


Fruits (except dried)

Candy; especially those that are sticky

Dried meat sticks

Chocolate milk


Plain milk and plain yoghurt

While grain products



Sweetened beverages (including fruit juices)

Flavored club soda

Fruit roll-ups, dried fruit

Diet sodas

Breakfast bars


Plain popcorn


Dental hygiene is of great importance because all the baby teeth come through by three years of age. It is important to take excellent care of these teeth, as decay at this stage will most likely result in the loss of teeth and future problems with the adult teeth including orthodontic problems and damage to the surface of the enamel.

More information on dental hygiene from 2 years of age

From 2 years of age For more information, see Dental Health for Babies and Young Children.



To promote good nutrition and decrease caries risk in preschoolers:

  • Promote nutritious, low risk foods (for dental decay) for meals, as well as for snacks;
  • Strongly discourage the consumption of slowly eaten, sugar-containing foods; and
  • Encourage that the majority of food consumption be at regular meal times.


Kindly written by Dr Akhil Chandra BDSc. (Hons UWA)

Dentist, Whitfords Dental Centre and Editorial Advisory Board Member of the Virtual Dental Centre


More information

Dental health in kids For more information on dental health and hygiene in children aged 0 to 5 years, see Dental Health in Kids.


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  2. Tinanoff N, Palmer CA. Dietary determinants of dental caries and dietary recommendations for preschool children. J Public Health Dent. 2000 Summer;60(3):197-206; discussion 7-9.
  3. Tinanoff N. Association of diet with dental caries in preschool children. Dent Clin North Am. 2005 Oct;49(4):725-37.
  4. Fisher JO, Birch LL. Fat preferences and fat consumption of 3- to 5-year-old children are related to parental adiposity. J Am Diet Assoc. 1995 Jul;95(7):759-64.

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