Tips for a Cavity-free Year!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five children between the ages of 5 and 11 has at least one untreated decayed tooth—in other words, a cavity. This sad statistic means that 20% of children in the United States will experience this preventable condition.
How can you help your children avoid cavities? First, instill in your children an oral health care routine that involves brushing and flossing their teeth. Toothbrushing at least two times a day—generally when they wake up and right before they go to bed—for at least two minutes removes stains, eliminates plaque and strengthens tooth enamel. Accompanying the routine with a two-minute song can ensure that your children meet the time requirement. As your children mature, the addition of flossing enhances the overall health of their mouths by clearing plaque from between the teeth.
To keep your children cavity-free, see us every six months. We will clean your children’s teeth, apply fluoride treatments and monitor your children’s oral health. When we catch a problem early, we can treat it and provide instructions and recommendations to modify behaviors.
You may notice that both of these recommendations involve fluoride. Whether in toothpaste or applied to tooth enamel, fluoride prevents mineral loss and reduces the growth of acid-breeding bacteria.
Finally, a nutritious diet helps combat cavities. Just as they learn a regular oral health care routine, children should learn how to make healthy and appropriate food choices. Avoiding a diet high in sugars prevents the development of plaque, limiting the growth of acid-producing bacteria that wreak havoc on tooth enamel.
Parents need to play an active role in maintaining their children’s oral health. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask us at your child’s next visit.
Keep the Chocolate—and Your Teeth
Wouldn’t it be nice to indulge your junior chocoholic? (And—let’s face it—wouldn’t you like to indulge, too?) Research shows that there is no need to completely avoid this delicious treat. In fact, dark chocolate has many potential health benefits that outnumber the risks, so add it to your grocery list. Dark chocolate that is composed of at least 70% cocoa contains the following:
- Polyphenols—these natural chemicals not only have anti-inflammatory properties but also inhibit bacteria growth in the mouth, reducing the chances of bad breath and cavities.
- Antioxidants—while fighting cellular dysfunction, antioxidants in saliva may help battle periodontal disease … and chocolate contains four times as much antioxidant as does green tea.
- Tannins—among other functions, they bind to bacteria in the mouth before those bacteria have a chance to stick to teeth and begin the plaque-formation process.
- Epicatechin—this flavonoid helps fight tooth decay and has cardiac benefits as well.
Of course, there’s a catch. The dark chocolate we usually eat, whether it’s a bar, a bonbon or chocolate milk, contains plenty of sugar. And sugar is most definitely not a friend of your child’s teeth. When it lingers on tooth surfaces, sugar provides food for bacteria that produce enamel-eroding and cavity-causing acids.
To indulge healthily in dark chocolate and reap its potential benefits, your child needs one thing: a toothbrush. In addition to a usual twice-a-day brushing routine, brushing after eating sweet, sticky or starchy foods is important to prevent tooth decay. Flossing once daily is crucial to preventing cavities and gum disease, too.
The good news is that you and your child don’t have to abstain from enjoying this delicious treat. Responsibly indulging in chocolate can help keep those pearly whites shiny, bright and cavity-free.
Fruits and Your Teeth: Not Always a Perfect Match
Fruits are nature’s perfect food, right? Full of vitamins and antioxidants, they are considered part of a well-balanced diet. Fruit promotes a strong heart and immune system. In both popular culture and in the home, it is rare to hear someone knock the value of this nutritious, delicious food. Yet in some circumstances, fruits can have a negative impact on oral health—specifically, the condition of the teeth.
As a general rule, consumption of any fruits high in citric acid (e.g., lemons, limes and grapefruit) should be limited, including the lemon and lime juice added to your favorite drink. The acids have the ability to attack the teeth for up to an hour after consumption. Not only do citrus fruits irritate mouth sores but if eaten on a regular basis, these fruits erode tooth enamel, which can expose dentin and cause sensitivity issues and tooth decay.
Avoid sticky fruits, too. This is especially important if dried fruit is a staple of your diet. Dried fruits tend to be stickier and are likely to stay on teeth longer than other foods, increasing the level of tooth exposure to natural sugars and acids. This increases the production of plaque, which can cause tooth decay or dental erosion.
With their ability to cleanse bacteria from tooth surfaces, apples have been considered good for oral health. But their crunchy texture can result in chipped or cracked teeth. Your children don’t need to avoid apples altogether; rather, take the time to cut apples into small slices so they are easier to chew.
Practicing moderation and maintaining a healthy oral hygiene regimen will mitigate the immediate consequences of eating fruit.
Preparing Your Special-Needs Child for a Dental Visit
Being a parent of a special-needs child is challenging. Routine tasks can take a twist for those raising a child with a developmental disability or an autism spectrum disorder. This is certainly true when it comes to visiting the dentist. We have the equipment and training to treat children with special needs and will be happy to work with you and your child to ensure a smooth visit and optimal oral health.
The Maternal and Child Health Bureau has found that children with special needs are almost twice as likely as other children to have unaddressed dental problems. Regardless of your child’s special needs, he or she must follow a regular dental hygiene routine of brushing twice a day, flossing daily and visiting us twice a year.
Before coming to our office, you can prepare your child for the visit by running through a practice visit at home. Although every child’s behaviors and concerns are unique, you might start with the following steps:
- Have your child sit in a reclining chair, with his or her hands on the stomach and feet extended straight.
- Ask your child to open wide and hold the position while you count his or her teeth.
- Buy a tiny flashlight, mirror and rubber-tipped gum massager so you can go through the routine of a dental examination at home.
- Brush your child’s teeth with a battery-operated toothbrush while he or she is lying in the chair.
Let us know ahead of time what we can do to make the visit go smoothly. For instance, if your child’s preference is to wait in the car instead of in our waiting room, our receptionist can call your cell phone when we are ready to see you. Before the dental examination, we will be happy to come out and meet your child, rather than waiting until he or she is seated in the dental chair.
You don’t have to put off a dental appointment for your child with special needs. With proper planning, we can work together to ensure a smooth dental visit for your child, so that his or her smile remains happy and healthy.
Brush Up Your Knowledge About Children’s Toothpaste
As a responsible parent, you know that your child needs to learn and follow a daily oral health routine that includes toothbrushing. But as long as your children brush their teeth, the toothpaste they use doesn’t matter, right? While all toothpastes contain ingredients that scrub off stains, remove plaque and promote healthy tooth enamel, they have several key differences—the consistency of the paste, flavors and fluoride levels being the most common.
The most important consideration when choosing toothpaste is fluoride content. Children under the age of 2 can use a small smear of toothpaste. After the age of 2, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste containing fluoride can be used, but children should be supervised to be sure they do not swallow the toothpaste. Also, be sure to check the product’s level of abrasiveness. Toothpaste used by children should never be more than mildly abrasive.
Another consideration is the level of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a surfactant that causes foaming. Studies have shown that SLS may contribute to canker sores in certain susceptible people. Most commercially popular toothpastes have varying levels of SLS.
Finally, choose a toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. The presence of the Seal of Acceptance ensures that the product has been objectively tested and that acceptable evidence of its safety and effectiveness has been submitted to the ADA Council on Scientific Affairs.
For answers to any questions about toothpaste or anything related to your child’s oral health, ask us at your next regular visit. We have the information you need to help maintain your child’s day-to-day toothbrushing routine and overall oral health.
Seal Out Plaque and Bacteria
Dental sealants—plastic coatings that form a seal over your child’s back teeth—prevent plaque, bacteria and other unwanted particles from getting into the grooves of your child’s teeth and causing cavities and tooth decay. In most circumstances, we recommend having sealants applied as soon as your child’s back teeth erupt.
While sealants are very helpful, they are not by themselves 100% effective against plaque and tooth decay. Sealants only help with oral care; they don’t replace it. Children still need to brush twice a day, floss once a day and see us on a regular basis. But sealants can substantially reduce their risk of cavities.
We usually apply sealants to the teeth of children between the ages of 6 and 14. Once applied, sealants typically last approximately 10 years. But they can chip and wear down over time, so it’s important for your child to have regular dental checkups to make sure sealants are doing their job.
Sealants should be applied early because childhood represents the most formative time for a child’s oral care. Your child’s back teeth are particularly difficult to brush properly due to their shape and location. When children are still learning how to take care of their teeth, mistakes can occur and bad habits can develop. Sealants help to protect teeth from the consequences of those mistakes and bad habits while children adjust over time to their adult teeth.
For answers to your questions and concerns about sealants or for help teaching your children how to brush their back teeth, be sure to ask the next time you bring your child to our office.