Have you hugged your dentist lately? February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Children who have dental decay are more likely to have an inability to concentrate in school as well as excessive school absences. Suprisingly, tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It is even 5 times more common than asthma! Having a proper diet and excellent oral hygiene can significantly reduce your child’s risk of getting cavities.
Diet: Americans are consuming more sugar in their diets than ever before. The average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks per year! Many sugars are hidden in foods and drinks so read your labels. Limit soda and juice, instead encourage your children to drink water and low-fat milk. Introduce your children to healthy options at a young age; encourage them to eat fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Processed foods often have high levels of sugar. Grazing on these foods and sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day exacerbate the problem.
Diet Habits: The frequency of the consumption of sugars can significantly affect your mouth’s ability to fight cavities. If your child is having a sweet treat have them eat it in one setting after a meal, not small bites throughout the day. Why? Because saliva keeps our mouth’s acidity neutral and with constant sugar throughout the day, the environment becomes acidic and causes decay. Rest and minimal snacks between meals, allows saliva to do its job of protecting our teeth by neutralzing acid.
Oral Hygiene: Keep their pearly whites clean. To keep cavities at bay, brush twice a day for two minutes and floss at least once a day. Children under 6 years of age will need an adult to brush and floss for them. It may not be until they reach the age of 8 years old that they can do so without adult help. Use a toothpaste containing fluoride and check with your dentist to see if your child needs additional fluoride therapies. Flouride is crucial to making your child’s teeth cavity resistant during their development. Last but not least, schedule regular checkups every six months. For children with a high cavity risk, they should see their dentist more frequently. Your dentist can catch cavities early before they progress to root canals, or worse yet, need to be pulled.
We all have only one set of permanent teeth, and children should be encouraged at a young age to take care of their teeth. If you establish good habits for children, they will never need dentures when they get older and they will be proud to smile on!