If you’re like most parents, you’ve heard the whines of protest from young kids when giving them a gentle reminder about brushing their teeth. As parents, we share helpful advice with our children because we have life experience and know what the negative outcomes can be (anyone had a root canal lately?). And while you surely know that not brushing can lead to cavities or gum disease, your kids probably don’t get it. Not really anyway.
The fact is, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have tooth decay in primary teeth and 23 percent of those cases go untreated1. This decay is the result of ongoing acid attacks on the teeth, caused by exposure to food and drinks. While these attacks are normal and unavoidable, the saliva in your mouth, combined with regular brushing and dental care, fight the potential impact and prevent cavities from forming.
Beyond brushing, there’s a lot you can do to promote great dental health at home.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps prevent tooth decay. There are lots of ways to get it. Check your toothpaste label to make sure it’s fluoride-based, most are. Your community drinking water also likely has fluoride. Visit your water utility’s website to learn about your specific supply. Bottled water frequently doesn’t have enough fluoride to reap the same benefits, so check with your dentist about other ways to supplement your fluoride exposure with treatments such as dissolvable tabs or fluoride-based mouthwashes. 2
Pay attention to what your child is eating and when. Sugary foods, like sweets or fruit juice, and acidic foods, such as oranges or tomatoes, are hard on teeth. Every time food is consumed, acids attack, so try to limit the frequency of snacking throughout the day and reserve things like sweets and fruit juice for special occasions.
Dentists recommend brushing teeth twice per day to prevent tooth decay. Until age 7 or 8, assist your child by putting the toothpaste on the brush, instructing them about thorough brushing and making sure they spit the toothpaste into the sink instead of swallowing it. After the day’s last brushing, kids shouldn’t eat or drink anything except water before bed. If you’re child resists brushing, add some incentive. Play a favorite song and brush from beginning to end. Brush together. After a good brushing, give the reward of a before-bed game or television show. Or, consider giving your child a choice. Offer two options for when brushing can occur and let them make the decision.3
Everyone in the family should have regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your dentist will help determine the best timing for you and your family. At these visits, the dentist and hygienist will clean and examine your teeth and check for any signs of tooth decay. They may also suggest dental X-rays or fluoride treatments before scheduling your next appointment. Hopefully, through good dental care, you’ve managed to keep cavities and tooth decay at bay!
1 https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/DataStatistics/FindDataByTopic/DentalCaries/DentalCariesChildren2to11.htmlink opens in a new window,
https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/OralHealthInformation/ChildrensOralHealth/ToothDecayProcess.htm.link opens in a new window
2 https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/faqs/community-water-fluoridation.html. link opens in a new window
3 http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/life-stages/childrens-oral-car.link opens in a new window