In dentistry, children and cavities seem to go hand in hand. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 percent of children ages 2 through 5 have at least one dental cavity, compared to 24 percent a decade ago. Although 4 percent may not seem like a lot, that increase represents thousands and thousands of children and cavities — as well as a trend in the opposite direction of the last 40 years, when tooth decay was on a gradual decline.
Eating unhealthy foods is one of the primary reasons for the rise in numbers of affected children and cavities. Healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts are often replaced with processed foods, and soda and sugary drinks have trumped water.
And unfortunately, even if your child is drinking water, it won’t do their teeth any good if it’s bottled; because unlike tap water, bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride, which is essential for the healthy development of your child’s teeth.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Visiting the dentist regularly, practicing good oral hygiene and promoting healthy eating habits are all ways to help break the connection between children and cavities.
You can also get a head start on fighting the children and cavities epidemic by taking extra special care of your child’s baby teeth. Baby teeth are adorable to look at, but they also set the stage for healthy adult teeth. If tooth decay is present in baby teeth, your child’s adult teeth can also become infected.
So if you have children and cavities are a concern, here are six easy ways to reduce the risk:
1. Avoid giving your baby juice or formula at night. The sugar in juice and formula causes the bacteria in the mouth to produce the acids that cause baby bottle tooth decay. Use fluoridated water instead.
2. Choose low-fat foods from the basic food groups. Raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole-grain breads and low-fat dairy products are great for your child’s overall health and their dental health!
3. If you must, give sweets only as a dessert. If your child must have sweets, limit it to dessert or following a main meal. Late-night snacking and frequent snacking are a major culprit of cavities in children.
4. Invest in a water filter. Most community sources of water are fluoridated — an excellent resource to help the battle between children and cavities. Instead of spending extra on bottled water, invest in a filter for your sink, or a filtered water pitcher.
5. Don’t share cups or utensils. Cavities are contagious. So if you have them, you can pass them onto your child by sharing cups and utensils.
6. If you smoke, stop. The University of Rochester’s Strong Children’s Research Center has discovered a link between smoking, children and cavities. Results from a recent study show that children of parents who smoke are more likely to develop cavities.
Learning how to brush properly is also essential in helping to stop the children and cavities epidemic. Teach your child to use short side-to-side, up-and-down strokes and to brush around his or her gum line for at least two minutes twice a day.
Finally, never skip taking your child to the dentist for regular exams and dental cleanings. While you’re at the dentist’s office, be sure to ask plenty of questions — your dentist is the best resource for learning how to protect your children from cavities!