Did you know that nearly half—about 42%—of all children ages 2 to 11 have dental problems in their primary (aka baby) teeth? That’s the report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. At least 23% of those children have untreated tooth decay. The study also reports that 21% of all kids between the age of 6 and 11 have cavities in their permanent teeth, 8% of which are untreated. Healthy teeth require preventive care—not just via twice-yearly visits at our Lower Manhattan pediatric dental office, but through activities located in the home. Here are some tips to help your toddler get off to a great start!
HOW YOUR TODDLER’S DIET IMPACTS HIS OR HER TEETH
Here are some tips to monitor your toddler’s diet for healthier teeth:
o Offer water over other beverages
o Fruit juices contain just as much cavity-creating sugars as soda
o Both fruit juices & soda contain acids that eat away at dental enamel
o Whole fruit is preferred to juice
o Offer your toddler to raw veggies instead of sugary or starchy snacks like crackers or chips
o If you don’t have them in the house, the temptation doesn’t exist
o Keep dried fruit to a minimum
o Dried fruit is full of sugar and its “stickiness” means that sugar adheres to the surfaces of your child’s teeth
o Set a healthy example
o If your child sees you drinking soda, he or she will want it, too and may even see these teeth-damaging liquids as an example of “being adult.” Kids love to emulate what their parents do, right?
REGULAR DENTAL CHECK-UPS CATCH PROBLEMS EARLY
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD), of which I’m a member, urges parents to begin biannual dental checkups after the very first tooth emerges—about the 6-month age. There are several reasons for these visits, including:
o Reinforcing the habit of regular dental visits
o Fostering a positive relationship between a young child and the dentist
o Teaching the child how to correctly brush and floss
o Tracking dental development
o Checking for dental abnormalities: teeth out of alignment, slow eruption of permanent teeth, unusual jaw bone development and more
o Finding and repairing any dental cavities
HOW TO TEACH YOUR TODDLER GOOD DENTAL HABITS
As parents, teaching a child how to care for his or her teeth is an important task that deserves top priority. Here are some tips:
o Provide a soft-bristled brush for comfort in a size that fits your child’s hand
o Brush your child’s teeth after he/she has done so, to get any missed spots
o Replace the brush every 3 months and after every illness
o Stick with a brushing schedule regardless of interruptions: brush after breakfast and brush & floss in the evening before bed.
o Use fluoridated toothpaste based on your dentist’s recommendation.
o Avoid whitening toothpastes for children
o Teach your child to floss his/her teeth and do it for them until they are able
If you’d like additional strategies to protect your child’s teeth, those of us at iSmileKids dentistry in Lower Manhattan are here to help you! Check out the other articles on our blog and website, and email or call us. Our goal is to provide pediatric services to keep your children gums and teeth healthy and beautiful.