50% of American children have cavities. Yes, that’s a lot. But there are many easy steps moms and dads can take to help keep children in the other half. Here are five healthy dental habits we recommend for every parent:
1. Practice good home dental care
Healthy smiles start at home. We recommend a basic checklist for day-to-day home dental care based on your child’s age.
2. Maintain a healthy, teeth-friendly diet
Most foods (90%!) contain cavity-causing sugars or starches. The good news? Nutritionally-dense diets rich in protein, vitamins and minerals can help build healthy gums and strong teeth that are resistant to decay. Your family’s day-to-day approach to meals and snacks can have a big impact on dental health.
- Limit sodas, juices and other sugary drinks
- Keep healthy snacks like cheese, vegetables and peanut butter on hand
- Save foods with sugar or starch for meal times
- Select gum, if your child chews it, that’s free of sugars
- Allow your child to eat or drink any sugary substances after brushing and flossing at bedtime
- Put your young child to bed with milk, formula or juice
- Keep your kitchen regularly stocked with starchy foods like chips and candy
Tip: Offer cheese at the end of a meal or as a snack. This great cavity fighter stimulates the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and counteracting acids that can cause decay.
3. Schedule regular dental visits
At Palmetto Kids Dentistry, we recommend a dental exam and cleaning every six months—starting shortly after the first baby tooth erupts. Regular dental visits help children stay cavity-free, since dentists are able to remove plaque buildup that regular tooth-brushing can’t get.
4. Use fluoride
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, fluoride can reduce tooth decay by as much as 70%. Talk to your dentist about fluoridated water and products such as toothpastes and rinses.
5. Have dental sealants applied
One of the best ways to keep tooth decay at bay is having your dentist apply dental sealants. This thin, plastic coating creates a protective shield over the nooks and crannies of back teeth, where food and cavity-causing bacteria are otherwise likely to get trapped.
And remember: Children model parents’ behaviors, so be sure they see you practicing proper oral hygiene on a daily basis!