As parents we are responsible for the health of our children. That includes their dental health. The World Health Organization considers dental caries (aka cavities) a chronic disease. Yes, you read that right, a disease. On the bright side, cavities are the most preventable disease in the world.
As a practicing dental hygienist, the biggest problem I see is the over-consumption of sweetened beverages. With kids, this is usually in the form of juice. Isn't it typical to see a toddler carrying his sippy cup full of juice all day or a child who drinks 1 juice box after another? When I see multiple cavities, parents are surprised my first question to them is how much juice does your child drink - not how much candy do they eat. Why? The answer is simple. We drink more than we eat and with a greater frequency. It is the frequency that teeth are exposed to sugar in the juice that creates an environment favorable for cavity formation.
What can a worried parent do to prevent this over-exposure? If your child is used to drinking a lot of juice you may try decreasing gradually. First, start offering only water between meals. Also, water juice down if possible. For older toddlers and preschoolers, start weaning off of the sippy cups altogether. It may be a battle, but it is a battle that is better to fight at home rather than in the dentist chair while your child is getting cavities filled.
Some additional tips to keep teeth healthy:
- Parents should assist children with brushing and flossing until they are about 10 years old. Most children do not have the dexterity to do a thorough job until this age.
- Brush at least twice a day in the morning and evening. If you can, brush throughout the day.
- Brush for at least 2 minutes. Most children do not even come close to this. Set a timer if necessary.
- Floss your child daily.
- Visit the dentist twice a year.
- Have your child wear a mouth guard while playing sports.
Remember...A Healthy Smile is Always in Style
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