The disease - tooth decay - affects more than 67% of children by the time they are 19. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a perfect time to examine why this is such a prevalent health issue for kids, and what steps parents can take to reduce their children’s risk factors.
Brush Early and Often
Parents can start wiping or brushing children’s gums even before all their teeth come in. This is an excellent way to begin establishing a daily habit of oral hygiene - for both the parent and the child. As the child grows, adding a fluoride toothpaste and twice-daily brushing is a very effective tactic, and of course flossing is essential to reducing or eliminating tooth decay causing bacteria between teeth.
Reduce Sugar Intake
Making healthy choices isn’t always as straightforward as it seems. Those popular fruit snacks made with real fruit juice seem like a great alternative to sweets and candy, but they are actually a dangerous snack for your child’s teeth - think gum drops. Sugary AND sticky is a bad combination when it comes to children’s teeth.
Of course, eliminating sweets for kids would be the ideal solution, but that simply isn’t practical. Instead, try replacing treats made with sugar - which converts into acid in the mouth - with treats made with xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener derived from plant sources such as the Birch tree. Not only does xylitol not promote tooth decay, it actually helps to inhibit the decay process! Imagine the next time your little one asks for something sweet, you could hand them a treat which helps protect their new teeth instead of harming them. Talk about a win-win!
It’s a catch-22: the dentist appointments no one likes are the ones with bad news, like cavities, fillings and extractions. But the best way to avoid those appointments is to keep your regular, twice-yearly check-up and cleaning times. Putting off regular check-ups only serves to dramatically increase your chances of facing the drill down the road - so if you, or your child, doesn’t like going to the dentist, the best thing you can do is...go to the dentist regularly.
Children’s Dental Health Month is the perfect time to commit to a great oral hygiene routine for kids, including brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. While you’re at it, swap out some of those sugar-filled treats for xylitol-based sweets that can help protect children’s teeth against tooth decay. Your kids - and their dentist - will love you for it!