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Top 5 Ways to Keep Kids Cavity Free

More than 16 million kids in the United States suffer from untreated tooth decay in the United States, making it the most common chronic childhood disease. Fortunately, dental caries (aka cavities) are preventable.

Bacteria that eat away at the tooth’s enamel, thereby demineralizing the hard tissues, cause tooth decay. Holes and other structural damage occur, which must be treated with fillings, crowns or root canals, depending on the extent of the damage. Untreated tooth decay can lead to tooth loss and gum disease—not to mention pain and a decreased quality of life.

Recent research also shows that oral health affects students’ academic performance. “The Impact of Oral Health on the Academic Performance of Disadvantaged Children,” a study appearing in the September 2012 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, reports that students with toothaches were almost 4 times more likely to have a low grade point average.

They also determined that:

  • About 11 percent of students with inaccessible needed dental care missed school compared with 4 percent of those with access
  • Per 100 elementary school—aged child, 58 hours of school were missed annually
  • Per 100 high school—aged children, 80 hours of school were missed annually
  • Parents missed an average of 2.5 days of work or school annually due to their children’s dental problems

Follow these five tips to help your kids stay cavity-free and improve their overall health:

  1. Eat well
  2. Cavity-causing bacteria feast on sugar. Eating sugary foods, especially sticky ones that cling to teeth, provides increased opportunity for decay. On the other hand, crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots, and celery, increase saliva production. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria. Cheese has also been linked to combating dental caries. Read Oral B’s article “Foods that Prevent Tooth Decay” to learn more about eating for a healthy smile!

  3. Practice good oral care
  4. Practicing good hygiene at home goes far in preventing tooth decay. Make sure everyone in your family brushes twice and flosses at least once per day. Help your child get into the habit—and make sure it’s done properly. It is especially important to brush after eating sugary foods.

    It’s easy to get busy and “just forget,” or give up after battling brushing-resistant kids,” but oral hygiene needs to be a priority. In summer 2012, less than half of parents (44 percent) responding to a survey from the Advertising Council reported that their children brush twice a day or more. The organization recently joined forces with leading dental organizations to launch a kids oral health campaign that heavily stresses the importance of brushing for 2 minutes twice a day—just 4 minutes out of 24 hours! The campaign’s website includes 2-minute videos and music clips that children can watch and listen to while brushing their teeth for the recommended time.

    Drinking fluoridated drinking water also help prevent decay. If your family drinks bottled water or does not live in an area where water is fluoridated, discuss fluoride sources with your dentist.

  5. Visit the dentist
  6. Make sure your child visits the dentist for regular exams and cleanings. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children see a pediatric dentist every six months. The dentist will look for early signs of decay and treat them before they worsen or become more expensive to treat. Professional cleanings are also more thorough than those we perform at home. This is also an opportune time to discuss any concerns and ask questions. If your child needs an extra nudge in the brushing and flossing department, who better than the dentist to remind him or her?

  7. Consider sealants
  8. Talk to your child’s dentist about dental sealants. These plastic coatings are applied to teeth, typically the permanent molars, to help prevent decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends them for children age 6 and older whose permanent molars are coming in.

  9. Avoid sharing bacteria
  10. Saliva exchanged from parents to children can carry decay-causing bacteria. The American Dental Association reminds parents not to share feeding spoons or lick pacifiers before giving them to children. An article published in Parents magazine explains more about this surprising link between parental tooth decay and child tooth decay.

Practicing prevention goes a long ways, especially with tooth decay. Following these tips won’t take much time or cost much, and it will help your child build healthy habits for a lifetime.

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