Today's guest blogger is Warren Brill, D.M.D., M.S., a pediatric dentist in Baltimore, Maryland. He is the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry president and a national spokesperson of the AAPD, as well as an advocate for the dental health and overall well-being of children.
It’s the season for festivities, friends, family and an abundance of food. Because we are all so busy, it’s the time of year that parents tend to relax some routines: kids stay up later and eat more sweets and snacks than usual. There are certain healthy routines that should not be relaxed, even amid the hustle and bustle of the season because of all these indulgences. Among habits which are important to stick to and reinforce, those related to good oral hygiene are essential.
Many parents are surprised to learn that tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious childhood disease. More than one-fourth of United States children age 2 to 5 have tooth decay, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But what parents should know is that tooth decay is largely preventable with good oral hygiene and regular preventative care.
Let the holiday break serve as a time to remind kids about the importance of taking care of their teeth and think about scheduling routine appointments in the New Year. Here are some top tips and reminders for parents and caregivers during the holidays:
- Kids should brush two times a day, for two minutes each time. Until your child can tie his own shoe, he’ll need your supervision.
- A new tooth brush makes a great stocking stuffer! Look for one with your child’s favorite character or colors.
- It’s the frequency of exposure to sugar, not the quantity consumed, that is most harmful to teeth. A candy cane which a child eats throughout the day is more harmful to teeth than a couple of cookies consumed in a few minutes.
- Watch out for juices and sugary soft drinks which literally bathe teeth in sugar.
- Certain cheeses like mozzarella and Swiss are tooth-friendly snacks because they help to neutralize the acids that attack teeth.
- While brushing and flossing is always the most effective way to clean teeth, you can teach school-age kids these quick tips:
- Chew gum with xylitol, a non-sugar naturally occurring substance, to stimulate saliva flow which helps to clean the mouth (just make sure to ask the teacher!).
- A few swishes of water can help rid the mouth of food that may stick in between the teeth.
- If you are a new parent, the time to start thinking about keeping your child’s teeth healthy is now. The first visit to the pediatric dentist should be no later than his first birthday or when the first tooth appears.
For more tips like these and important information about preventing tooth decay, check out this fact sheet from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Parents and caregivers can also find more information, including a pediatric dentist finder, at mychildrensteeth.org. And remember that the gift of establishing good oral hygiene habits is one that will have a lasting impact throughout your child’s lifetime.
Have a question for the Healthy Kids panel? Ask it here.
Read more from the Healthy Kids blog »