By Sara Davis, DDS
February is often the time to indulge in a fancy box of chocolates and other sugary treats in honor of Valentine’s Day. Not so fast. February is also National Children’s Dental Health Month.
Dental health for kids an important topic. By age eight, more than half of children have had at least one cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay. It’s the result of harmful bacteria digesting the sugar in foods and producing damaging acids. If left untreated, cavities can spread into the deeper layers of the teeth, causing pain and possible tooth loss.
The good news, however, is that cavities are preventable. Here are five tips to help you and your family ditch the sugar and protect your oral health.
While completely eliminating sugary beverages such as soda and juice from our diets would certainly be best, a good start is reducing the number of those beverages we consume by substituting with healthier options.
Experts with the American Dental Association (ADA) share their best drink choices, including water, milk, and diluted juice, all of which have little to no sugar. These drinks won’t give the bacteria in your mouth a chance to make tooth-damaging acid. Plus, water can also contain fluoride, which many dentists refer to as “nature’s cavity fighter.”
Start your kids on the water habit early. Many schools allow students to keep water bottles at their desks. Have a family routine of everyone — including Mom and Dad — drinking only water at dinner.
The CDC also recommends that parents place only formula, milk, or breast milk in babies’ bottles, and avoid putting babies to bed with a bottle.
Many foods, including milk and even vegetables, have some type of sugar in them. But to help control the amount of sugar you and your family consume, it’s a good idea to read food labels and choose foods that are low in added sugars.
Good snack options include fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, which help keep your teeth and gums clean, according to the ADA. Other healthy snacks — for your body and your teeth — include cheese and plain yogurt, which both include calcium and phosphates that help put minerals back into your teeth.
Incorporate sweets with mealtimes
Preventing tooth decay isn’t only about what you eat but when. Foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm to teeth than eating lots of snacks in little bites all throughout the day.
More saliva is released during a meal. That saliva helps wash foods from the mouth and lessens the effect of cavity-causing acids. So, if you’re craving something sweet, it’s best to have it as part of a meal rather than on its own.
Help your kids brush at least twice daily
For good dental health, the CDC recommends that parents brush their child’s teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, and help them floss daily. For children younger than age two, parents should consult their Lamoille Health dentist about when to start using fluoride toothpaste.
Schedule regular dental check-ups
With regular dental care, your Lamoille Health dentist can help you and your family prevent oral problems from occurring in the first place. It’s best to catch any oral health issues in the early stages, when they are easy to treat.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children start seeing a dentist every six months, starting around their first birthday or once their first tooth emerges.
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