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Build A Healthy Smile For Every Child

Give kids a smile

Give kids a smile

TRAVIS 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 problem.

Tip 2: What children should drink and snack on? How often?

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 after brushing.

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.

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