10 Ways To Reduce Your Child’s Risk of Tooth Decay
Effective Habits For Preventing Cavities
Tooth decay is the most prevalent oral health problem for children, responsible for most prematurely lost baby teeth. Statistically, most children will develop cavities during childhood, but that doesn’t mean the fight against tooth decay isn’t effective. In fact, preventive care can stop cavities when parents are consistent and focus on the most effective methods.
Here are several ways parents can prevent tooth decay in their family.
1. Support healthy brushing habits with daily routines.
Establishing great at-home dental care routines is the best way parents can prevent tooth decay. Ensure your child brushes their teeth twice daily, for two minutes, with a kids’ fluoride toothpaste. Their teeth also need to be flossed thoroughly at least once daily. The easiest way to make dental care a habit is to link it to other daily actions, like always brushing first thing in the morning before breakfast or brushing before putting on pajamas at night.
2. Keep a variety of snacks on hand and rotate between favorites.
Completely cutting out refined or less healthy snacks is tempting, but a better option is to focus on providing a wider variety of snacks, including teeth-friendly options. Presenting fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain snacks in an enticing way will naturally encourage children to give them a try. You can also snack on these healthy options to show your children that they’re tasty, and you can use it as an opportunity to talk about how food choices impact health.
3. Experiment with healthy dips to accompany veggies.
A great way to introduce kids to new vegetables is to serve them with different dips, like these kid-friendly options. Experiment with different raw vegetables and dip pairings to see what your children like. Don’t worry too much about how much dip your child might want on their veggies; focus instead on encouraging the exploration of different flavors and trying new vegetables in a pressure-free, fun way. Raw crunchy vegetables are great for teeth!
4. Offer fresh fruit instead of fruit juices.
Fruit juice may seem like a healthy beverage, but the combination of natural sugar and acids means it can be just as harsh on tooth enamel as a soda! Doctors suggest that children be limited to only 4 to 6 oz. of juice and no more than 8 oz. after age seven. Diluting juice with water is a great option, but parents can also offer fresh fruit instead of juice when their kids want a fruity treat.
5. Try less refined versions of their starchy favorites.
Cavity-causing bacteria definitely love sugar, but many parents aren’t aware that these bacteria also feast on starches from refined, processed foods. Unfortunately, many kids’ favorite snacks, like goldfish and animal crackers, fall into the category of highly refined starches. The good news is parents can still offer their children their favorite snacks, but in a less refined form; just look for whole-grain alternatives!
6. Close the kitchen to discourage all-day grazing.
Snacks are an important part of a balanced diet for children, but grazing steadily during the day can be detrimental to oral health. Constant nibbling or sipping on various drinks or snacks leaves tooth enamel exposed to acids, sugars, and food particles that bad bacteria will feed upon. Consider keeping a flexible but consistent meal and snack schedule and “closing the kitchen” between these set times.
7. Encourage kids to drink water throughout the day.
Staying well-hydrated is just as beneficial for your child’s body as it is for their teeth. Water is the best beverage for oral health for several reasons. Sipping on water throughout the day keeps the mouth moist and cleanses tooth enamel. Encourage your child to drink water after meals and snacks. Allowing them to pick their own water bottle or using a water drinking app is a great way to entice kids to drink a lot of water.
8. Treat baby teeth with the same importance as adult teeth.
Baby teeth may be temporary, but that doesn’t mean they’re expendable. The health of baby teeth has a significant impact on the health of future adult teeth, including their vulnerability to decay and whether they’ll be able to erupt in a proper alignment. Enamel on baby teeth is softer and thinner than adult teeth, so it’s especially important to do whatever you can to prevent tooth decay.
9. Assist with brushing and flossing until age 6 to 9.
Toddlers and young children all go through the “Let me do it myself!” phase, but it’s important for parents to actively supervise and assist in brushing and flossing until a child is between 6 to 9 years of age. Kids should understand how to brush their teeth thoroughly, including the back teeth, and how much pressure to use before rushing completely on their own. Making morning and bedtime brushing a family event is also a great way for parents to continue supervising without being obvious.
10. Take kids to the dentist every six months, starting early.
The sooner kids start seeing a dentist, the better! The ADA recommends that parents begin six-month checkups no later than their child’s first birthday and continue the schedule as the child’s dentist recommends. Regular checkups and cleanings are crucial for preventing cavities and catching early signs of decay before a toothache develops. These biannual visits also help children remain comfortable with seeing a dentist and the dental office environment.
The Tooth Doc team can help your child learn to love dental care.
The dentist you pick for your child will greatly impact their present and future relationship with dentists and dental care. The Tooth Doc team loves to work with children, and their welcoming, positive attitude helps even the most nervous kids feel comfortable and relaxed. Your child will learn that dental care can be fun and dentists are important friends that help keep their teeth free from sugar bugs. Schedule an appointment for your child or yourself with the best dentists in West Omaha today.