Living a Sweet Life Without Sugary Beverages
You limit desserts and encourage your children to brush and floss daily, but they still get cavities. You wonder how this happened. If your children are fans of sports drinks, fruit juices or soda, you may have found the culprit.
Sugary drinks―even those that contain no added sugar, such as 100% juice―are very acidic. When you drink them, the acid combines with the bacteria in your mouth and attacks the enamel on your teeth. The more often you drink sugary drinks, the longer your teeth are exposed to this harmful acid. As enamel breaks down, your teeth may appear stained or yellow, become more sensitive and, most importantly, be more prone to decay.
If you can’t cut out sodas and juices completely, you can reduce the damage to your children’s dental health by following a few rules:
- Limit juice intake to 6 ounces per day for children younger than 7 years old and to 12 ounces for older children.
- Make sodas an occasional treat. Soft drinks are both highly acidic and void of any nutritional value. Also, the phosphoric content of soda can affect the way your children’s bodies absorb calcium, a necessary mineral for healthy teeth.
- Serve juice with a straw, and tell your children not to swish the juice around in their mouths or sip it continuously for long periods of time. The more contact it has with their teeth, the more damage the acid can do.
- After your children drink sweet beverages, have them swish some water around in their mouths to wash the acid and sugars away or brush their teeth.
- Give your children plenty of water to drink to help quench thirst, which may also help them avoid cravings for other beverages.
While cutting out sugary beverages can be difficult, your children can benefit in so many ways that extend far beyond dental health. Talk to us if you are concerned about the damage done by sugary drinks, and make it your goal to decrease your family’s sugary beverage consumption. It’s a lifestyle change that will lead to a “sweeter” life.
When … and Why … to Ditch the Baby Bottle
In reading up on health issues and your new baby, you may have come across the term “baby bottle tooth decay.” Though we think of babies’ bottles as a source of nourishment and growth, they can also bring about tooth decay if not used properly―or if your baby clings to the bottle beyond the time when he or she should have outgrown it.
Baby bottle tooth decay refers to early childhood caries, usually in the front teeth, caused by prolonged exposure to sugars, usually from a bottle. The good news is that these cavities can often be prevented by following a few precautions:
- Do not share saliva with a child via utensils or pacifiers that can transmit harmful bacteria.
- Fill bottles only with formula or breast milk. Never give your child a bottle of sugar water, juice or soft drinks.
- Do not let your child take a bottle to bed, which can lead to prolonged exposure to sugars.
- Always use a clean pacifier. Do not sweeten it with sugar or honey.
- Encourage your child to start drinking from a cup by his or her first birthday. Unlike a bottle, a cup will not cause liquid to collect around the teeth. And your child won’t take a cup to bed.
Make sure you bring your child in for a dental appointment before his or her first birthday. Even though primary teeth are temporary, they need diligent care because they provide the foundation for the permanent teeth. Early childhood is the best time to build good dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.
If you haven’t seen us lately, call our office for an appointment. We will review the best hygiene practices with you―practices that will prevent cavities and gum disease and give your child a lifetime of healthy smiles.
Dental Needs of Your Child with a Hearing Impairment
Of every 1,000 children born in the United States, between two and three have a detectable level of hearing loss in one or both ears. If your child has a hearing impairment, you know that medical and dental appointments can be a challenge. As dental professionals trained to deal with many special health care needs, we are committed to providing the best dental care possible, tailored to your child’s unique needs and abilities.
When you bring your child in for an appointment, we will first assess speech, language ability and the degree of hearing impairment, so that we can best communicate with your child. We will also eliminate background noise to help us communicate with your child to the best of his or her abilities. If your child reads lips, we will remove our masks when speaking.
When preparing to perform a dental procedure, we will employ the tell–show–do approach, explaining and showing your child what we are going to do so there are no surprises. We want your child to understand what dental equipment we will use and how we will use it before treatment begins―that helps make your child feel more comfortable and relaxed during the procedure.
Children with hearing impairments may also have special dental needs, which we can assess and treat. They are more likely to breathe through their mouths―that can lead to increased risks of dry mouth, dental cavities and gum disease. Studies have shown that dental hygiene education tailored to children with hearing impairments improves their dental hygiene and health. That makes it especially important for these children to receive frequent preventive care and adhere to a regular regimen of dental hygiene.
When you schedule an appointment, let us know that your child has difficulty hearing. Regardless of your child’s special health care needs and challenges, we are equipped and committed to ensuring that he or she has the healthiest smile possible.
You (and Your Teeth) Are What You Eat
Can limiting which foods your child eats increase the likelihood of a healthy mouth? Can it be that simple? Yes, it can.
Tooth decay, otherwise known as early childhood caries, is the most common chronic infectious disease among children. Why? When you eat, food passes over gums and teeth that are covered with plaque bacteria. With the aid of sugar, these bacteria produce acids that break down the enamel of teeth. And that causes tooth decay.
The most obvious culprits are foods and beverages high in sugar, such as candy and carbonated soft drinks. More sugar in a product causes more acid to be generated; the more acid, the more negative impact on tooth enamel. Worse, soda contains a high level of phosphorus that further contributes to the weakening of tooth enamel and can cause staining.
However, it is not just candy and soda. Any food high in carbohydrates with the potential to leave particles can contribute to poor tooth health. Additionally, foods high in acid, such as citrus fruits, have a negative effect on tooth enamel if they remain in the mouth for a prolonged period of time.
Ultimately, it is your job to instill healthy habits in your children. Giving them a strong foundation in healthy eating is one of the best gifts you can offer. Besides the myriad of other health benefits it can bring about, healthy eating all but guarantees a healthy mouth.
Start building that foundation today. If you have any questions, we can answer them at your child’s next checkup.
Healthy Child, Healthy Mouth
We recommend that parents bring their children to our office as soon as that first baby tooth erupts. As dental professionals with special training to treat children, we know the importance of keeping up with dental care. Regular visits during childhood and adolescence help children form good dental care habits that ensure your children enter adulthood with healthy teeth and gums. But what happens if parents do not take their children to the dentist regularly?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 83% of children aged 2 to 17 years visited a dentist in 2014. Not surprisingly, it also estimated that 17.5% of children aged 5 to 19 years had untreated dental cavities. In fact, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood illness. For children who do not get treatment, the consequences can be long-term, irreversible and have an impact beyond just oral health. Those consequences include
- pain in the teeth and gums, affecting your child’s ability to eat well, sleep well and function well at school
- tooth and gum infection that can lead to tooth loss and compromised self-esteem and social development
- malnourishment, bacterial infections and emergency surgeries
In addition, recent research has linked dental disease to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, poor pregnancy outcomes and dementia.
The impacts on society are measurable as well. Dental disease leads to the loss of more than 51 million school hours each year in the United States, numbers that can translate into educational disparities and decreased productivity.
The good news: Most dental disease is preventable. Regular dental visits, along with regular brushing and flossing at home, can stop cavities and gum disease before they start, giving your child not just a healthy mouth but helping to give him or her a healthy body and mind, too.
If you have fallen behind with your child’s dental visits and dental hygiene, now is the time to get back on track. Make an appointment with our office. We can assess your child’s oral health and help you instill solid dental hygiene habits going forward.
Pacifier or Finger or Thumb: Does It Matter?
Whether it’s a finger, thumb or pacifier, the comfort object your baby sucks allows him or her to self-soothe and even learn about the world in some basic ways. In fact, babies even suck their thumbs or fingers before birth. After birth, most babies who enjoy sucking between feedings demonstrate a preference for pacifier or thumb or finger. In terms of dental development, all three affect (or don’t affect) oral structures equally.
If you’re worried about your child’s sucking habit, remember―your child won’t leave for college with a pacifier in his or her mouth. Ideally, children stop their sucking habit—on their own or with help—by the time the permanent teeth begin emerging, usually around age 6. Some experts believe that the practice should be addressed when a child is 3 years old; others suggest age 4 or even 5.
Knowing that the habit will have to stop—or be stopped—someday, some parents think (logically): It’s easier to rid a home of pacifiers than it is to rid a child of his or her fingers and thumbs, so they try to steer their sucking infant toward pacifiers from the beginning. They figure that will leave their children without options when it’s time to quit, having long ago dismissed the possibility of their fingers or thumbs as an attractive replacement.
Other pros and cons? Both pacifiers and hands can be full of germs, and those organisms can end up in your child’s mouth. But both pacifiers and hands can be washed as often as necessary. Pacifier use may lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); it may, however, increase the risk of ear infections.
Again, as long as the practice stops before the permanent teeth start coming in, sucking habits will most likely have no effect on your child’s teeth, mouth or jaw. If your preschooler is old enough to begin to comprehend consequences, though, all of us can talk together at your next visit about why giving up the pacifier, thumb or finger as soon as possible would be a good idea.