AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. – According to the leading source in oral
health information, the American Dental Association (ADA), the average American
consumes around 50 gallons of sugary drinks annually. Excessive consumption of
sugary foods and beverages with minimal nutritional value not only leads to
overall health implications, like obesity or heart disease, but it can also
cause destruction in oral health, especially in children. In observance of
February 2019 National Children’s Dental Health Awareness month, here are 4
tips to help parents build a healthy smile for their child.
Tip 1: How to protect their smile
Parents should teach and encourage their children
to brush their teeth at least two times a day with fluoridated toothpaste,
morning and night and floss at least once a day. Adult supervision during oral hygiene
routines are important to ensure that children are safe and are adequately
performing brushing and flossing techniques.
Proactive measures like brushing their teeth as soon as they erupt and scheduling
an annual exam with a dentist will identify cavities before they become a
Tip 2: What children should drink and snack on?
Foods and beverages high in sugar and
carbohydrates can lead to cavities because they feed the germs in the mouth
that cause tooth decay. After eating, these germs release an acidic by-product
in the oral cavity that attacks the enamel. Allowing children to continually
snack or sip on sweet beverages and sugary foods throughout the day means that
their teeth are constantly being exposed to these acid attacks leading to breakdown
of their enamel.
Choosing healthy food alternatives and limiting
the frequency of snacks are great ways to lessen intraoral acid attacks. Examples
of healthy snacks include vegetables, fruits, cheese, milk, and nuts. When
snacking, it’s best for children to eat their snack in one sitting versus
nibbling on them throughout the day. Beverages like fruit juice, sodas, and
sports drinks contains a lot of sugar that can cause cavities, therefore it’s
best to limit their consumption. Of
course, the beverage of choice should be water. However, when that’s not
practical and children are consuming sugary drinks, not allowing them to sip on
their drink all day and having them swish with water afterwards will lessen the
acid attacks, thereby decreasing the risk of tooth decay.
Tip 3: How to shield their teeth
Fluoride, a natural mineral that is found in
most sources of water and certain foods, have been deemed nature’s cavity
fighter and here’s why. Fluoride prevents the formation of cavities by
strengthening the outer surface of the teeth making it less susceptible to breakdown.
When brushing their teeth, no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride
toothpaste is recommended for children between the ages of 3 to 6. To prevent
stomach aches, children should be instructed to spit out most of the toothpaste
According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, not only has research proven that fluoride is safe and
effective, it’s revealed that the United States has benefited from consumption
of fluoridated water for 70 years and continues to do so. Although the efficacy
of fluoride has had mixed reviews in the past, its use, especially in the
community drinking water, has led to better dental health for both children and
adults. Common sources of fluoride for oral heath are toothpaste, fluoridated
drinking water and some over-the-counter mouth rinses. Fluoride works by
slowing down the breakdown of enamel, thereby increasing the tooth’s
remineralization process. If plaque, a sticky film that contains acid-producing
bacteria, is not properly removed from the teeth, weak spots on the tooth can develop
and eventually lead to cavities. If treated early, weakened spots on the enamel
can be remineralized with fluoride use and prevent cavities from fully evolving.
Tip 4: How to guard their teeth from trauma
Children should wear mouth guards when involved
in any contact sport. A mouthguard is a flexible, thin, plastic material that’s
placed over the teeth to protect the structures in the oral cavity. Head and
dental injuries are common in sports such as hockey, wrestling, football,
soccer, and basketball. Ensuring children wear protective mouthguards prior to participating
in these types of activities will minimize sports-related facial injuries, help
protect their jaws and save their smiles.
Oral health is an essential part of the overall
health of every child. Therefore, the
February 2019 National Children’s Dental Health month is geared towards awareness
on the importance and benefits of oral health and how it provides a glimpse to
an individual’s overall health. Parents, teachers and guardians play a key role
in building healthy smiles in children by teaching them good oral hygiene habits
early on. By being proactive in their oral health needs, parents will save time,
money, and protect their children’s smile for years to come. For questions, please
seek your dental health professionals.