According to the CDC, cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases in children. Oral health problems and visits to the dentist can be painful experiences for your child and add to expenses. Learn a few simple ways to keep your child’s teeth healthy and prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems.
1. Limit Sugar, Acidic Foods, and Foods that Cause Inflammation
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that sweet foods and drinks are bad for teeth. When it comes to teeth, how much sugar you eat doesn’t matter as much as how often.
Eating sugar feeds the bacteria in the plaque on your teeth. The bacteria then release acids that demineralize dental enamel, the white, protective outer layer. This persists for a couple of hours. If your child eats sugary foods every few hours, they extend the process.
Foods to Avoid
Acidic foods and drinks similarly demineralize dental enamel. These include vinegar, citrus fruits and drinks, wine, and pasta sauce. This means soft drinks are doubly bad for your children as they contain sugar, assuming they aren’t sugar-free, and citric acid. Even if they’re sugar-free, they’re still acidic since they’re carbonated.
Your saliva carries minerals, phosphate, and calcium, that counter the demineralization process. But if it continues for too long, it will eventually lead to tooth decay.
Lastly, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed meat promote inflammation. This can lead to gingivitis which is inflammation around the tissues supporting your teeth.
For the purposes of maintaining their dental health, you don’t actually need to limit the total amount of sugary foods, but it would be good for them if you did. Aside from tooth decay, sugar can cause a number of other health issues like unstable blood sugar levels and an increased risk of diabetes and heart diseases.
2. Don’t Put Off Dentist Visits
Perhaps preventive measures have failed or an accident caused the damage. Maybe your child needs braces. In any case, you should bring your child to the dentist as soon as possible. In most cases, your child will just have tooth decay which can be removed and then repaired with fillings in one visit.
Unfortunately, unlike tooth decay, crooked and misaligned teeth are caused by genetics and aren’t preventable. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing that can be done about them though. Your child is likely to raise objections, but it’s for their own good that they get braces as early as possible if they need it.
Crooked and misaligned teeth are harder to clean, making tooth decay more likely. They also wear themselves down over time due to not meeting properly. Your child’s oral health also affects their mental health as oral health problems can influence how they eat, speak, and socialize. You don’t want them to grow up with bad teeth any longer than necessary.
Technological Advancements in Oral Health Management
Braces aren’t that bad, and improvements in orthodontics over the years now allow for more options. There are self-litigating braces that shift teeth faster, resulting in less time spent wearing them and fewer dentist visits. There are even ceramic braces and invisible braces if your child is worried about the appearance.
Alternatively, should teeth need more than minimal tweaks and repairs, you can opt for dental implants. This procedure is also benefiting from various technological advancements. Children and adolescents may need to wait until their facial growth is completed, though. This is around 16 years old for girls and 18 years old for boys.
3. Stop Other Teeth Damaging Habits
Other than avoiding the food mentioned in the previous section, your child may also develop habits that will damage their teeth.
Simply biting on a hard object like a metal fork can chip a tooth. A common habit that has the same effect is biting fingernails. It can also impact your child’s jaw as it requires their lower jaw to protrude forward. Chewing ice is somewhat less harmful. Teeth are stronger, but ice can sometimes chip teeth or fillings.
For similar reasons, it’s a bad idea to use your teeth as scissors. Most people have probably used their teeth to tear tape or open stubborn packaging at least once or twice in their life. Not only is it bad for your teeth, but it’s also unsanitary. That’s why we tell our kids not to put things in their mouths, after all.
Brushing is an essential activity to maintaining oral health, but make sure your child isn’t enthusiastic about it. Two minutes of gentle brushing twice a day is enough. Brushing for more than a total of four minutes, brushing too hard, and brushing with a hard toothbrush can wear down dental enamel and irritate gums.
Prevention is key
The best measures are preventive ones. Proper teeth care will save your family from unnecessary expenses and pain. Keeping your child’s teeth healthy is just part of helping them grow well.