Protect your child’s teeth by monitoring their diet

It is common knowledge that too many sweets can lead to tooth decay, but research points to another food group that parents should watch out for: starches. Starch can be found in a wide variety of foods – even so-called “healthy” ones like crackers, bread, pasta and pretzels. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry suggests checking food labels for the presence of sugars and starches and then limiting those foods to mealtimes instead of as a snack. When consumed with other foods and drinks, sugars and starches are more easily washed away and removed from around a child’s teeth. For the same reason, sticky-sweet foods like dried fruit are more likely to damage your child’s teeth because they often get stuck in the crevices.

One common trap that many parents fall into is giving their child access to sugar-laden condiments, like many kinds of ketchup and salad dressings. These types of foods are not always associated with being sweet, but they often have lots of added sugar and can cause problems for kids who like to dip everything from chicken nuggets to apples. Finally, for very young children, experts recommend never putting them to bed with any liquid other than water. Juices and even milk are full of sugars that can sit on your child’s teeth while they’re sleeping and produce cavity-causing bacteria. To be safe, ask your True Care pediatric dentist for her input on your children’s diet. She can recommend healthy foods that are good for their bodies and their teeth.

Tips for Cleaning your child’s teeth

Although a baby’s first visit to the dentist should be by his or her first birthday, parents must also be vigilant about their child’s oral health at home. Do not wait until your child has multiple teeth before establishing a routine. At the first emergence of a tooth, parents should keep it clean by gently rubbing it with a terry cloth washcloth or clean piece of gauze once a day. As more teeth grow in, parents may begin to use a soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Most babies that are at least five months old can use the infant toothpastes sold at drugstores.

For young children, remember to never put more than a small smear of toothpaste on the toothbrush, as swallowing too much can be dangerous. If your child is too young to brush his or her teeth independently, it may be helpful to sit behind the child and tilt his or her mouth back toward you so you can see every section of the teeth and gums. The British Dental Health Foundation suggests brushing in small circular movements and focusing on one area at a time. In addition, it is important to remember to brush behind the teeth as well as on the gums.

Although most children ages 4 and older can start brushing their teeth on their own, parents should supervise the routine until at least age 7 to make sure the child is brushing thoroughly. If you have difficulty getting your kids to brush their teeth, try establishing a routine that is consistent and fun. Regular, direct praise can go a long way in encouraging children to keep their teeth clean and healthy. For more information about oral hygiene and young children, talk to a pediatric dentist on your dental plan. He or she can help you find a routine that fits your family and give you advice to keep your children’s smiles sparkling.

Protecting children from fluorosis

Fluoride is often touted for its smile-saving benefits, but too much fluoride in early childhood can actually damage a child’s teeth. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, fluorosis occurs when a child is exposed to high amounts of fluoride while their teeth are still developing, resulting in tooth enamel defects.

Mild cases of fluorosis are characterized by white streaks or specks on the tooth, while severe cases can cause brown discoloration. In such severe cases, the enamel may be rough and difficult to clean. AAPD suggests that children may develop fluorosis in several ways, including by swallowing fluoridated toothpaste, taking too much of a fluoride supplement, or taking a supplement when there is sufficient amounts of fluoride in their drinking water. The necessary amount of fluoride varies according to an individual child’s size and weight.

Although it may be tempting to cut out fluoride altogether, remember that in the proper amounts, fluoride is very important to a child’s oral health. Instead, contact a pediatric dentist through your True Care Advantage plan to talk about the optimal fluoride levels for your child. A dentist can assist you in determining the current level of fluoride in your drinking water and inform you if it would be wise to give your child an additional supplement. At home, be sure to watch your children carefully when they brush their teeth and teach them to spit out toothpaste instead of swallowing. Simple steps like these can help you protect your child’s smile for years to come.

Baby teeth are important, too

Losing the first baby tooth is a much-anticipated milestone of childhood. Many children are proud to see their “adult teeth” emerge and, as a result, parents can sometimes overlook the importance of their child’s primary – or baby – teeth. Although not permanent, a child’s primary teeth serve many purposes, including saving the appropriate amount of space for each adult tooth.

In their role as placeholders, primary teeth help ensure that adult teeth will have space to grow into and often help them grow straighter than they would without the guidance of other teeth. In addition, primary teeth equip children to consume a wide variety of foods – including meats, vegetables and fruits – that are necessary for proper nutrition.

They also play an important part in speech development as the child learns how to pronounce words and syllables. The interaction of the tongue, teeth and gums is a major factor in learning to speak well. Finally, when properly cared for, baby teeth help instill a good sense of self-esteem in a child. Children with healthy teeth often take pride in their appearance and are motivated to learn personal hygiene skills.

For all of these reasons, it is vitally important to impress upon your children the importance of caring for all of their teeth – primary or adult. For more tips about establishing good dental habits with your children, talk to a dentist on your True Care Advantage plan. He or she will help you start your child on a lifelong path of good oral health.