Prevent Childhood Tooth Decay
Good dental health habits in children are an important foundation for a lifetime of dental health. Developing good oral hygiene habits in youth leads to continued habits in adults. This February we observe Children’s Dental Health Awareness, brought to you by the American Dental Association. Observed each February, this year’s theme is “Fluoride in Water Prevents Cavities! Get it from the tap!” Since 1945 America’s water fluoridation has grown to service 70% of all our drinking water supply. Fluoride still proves to be the most effective defense against dental caries.
Tips for Children’s Dental Health
In addition to drinking fluoridated water, here are some other general tips for good dental health in children:
- Brush teeth twice, daily, with a toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Clean between teeth daily, by flossing.
- Limit sugary beverages and snacks
- Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings (every 6 months from the time teeth appear)
Causes of Dental Caries in Children
Children are notorious for frequent snacking. But repeated exposure of sugary or starchy foods can increase your child’s likelihood of tooth decay. Acid-producing bacteria feed on the sugar that’s left on teeth. The acid produced by the bacteria eats away at tooth enamel, causing cavities. Besides the obviously sugary foods, sugar can hide in nearly all kinds of foods. It would be impossible and even detrimental to good nutrition to try to eliminate all foods containing sugar.
Instead, strive to limit excessively sugary sweets or eat them with other nutrient-dense meals. The saliva produced during meals helps neutralize the acid from bacteria and rinses away any food particles.
Bottles & Sippy Cups
Very young children can develop tooth decay from sucking for prolonged periods on bottles or sippy cups. To prevent this it’s helpful for your child to finish all bottles before going to bed. It is also recommended that your child switches to a regular drinking cup by their first birthday. Sipping from a cup is a different motion than sucking from a spout or bottle and decreases the occurrence of tooth decay.
The choice of drink is also important for cavity prevention. Limit sugary sodas and juices, even milk with higher fat content. Healthy drink options, both for their bodies and teeth, are water or low-fat milk.
Cavity Prevention Habits
Teach your children to brush their teeth thoroughly and for an appropriate amount of time. Have them sing twinkle, twinkle little star in their head while they brush (or sing it for them). You can also invest in a fun toothbrush that blinks for the amount of time they should brush. Closely monitoring their tooth brushing ensures that they are getting their teeth clean.
Finally, schedule their dentist appointments every six months or as recommended by your dentist. Children should begin to visit the dentist from the time their first tooth appears, or at a year old – whichever comes first. Choose a dentist that specializes in pediatrics so that it’s an enjoyable experience for your child. A positive attitude about dentists and oral hygiene will lead to long term dental health.
Be sure to visit our National Wellness Calendar for more resources on Children’s Dental Health Awareness Month.