AT LEAST TWO OUT OF every five children will develop one or more cavity by the time they turn eleven. That statistic makes tooth decay the most common childhood disease. The good news is that parents can make a huge difference in their children’s dental health, and the first step is understanding the major culprits of childhood tooth decay.
Sugary Drinks in Sippy Cups and Bottles
Many of the drinks kids love are packed with sugar, and we’re not just talking about soda. Fruit juice, despite carrying the assumption of being healthier, contains nearly the same amount of sugar, and even milk is nowhere near sugar-free. The sugars in these drinks are a problem for oral health because harmful oral bacteria love to eat sugar as much as we do, increasing the risk of decay.
What makes sugary drinks even more dangerous is constant exposure. Drinking a cup of juice with a meal is one thing. Carrying a sippy cup or bottle of juice around for hours is another. So many children get tooth decay due to bottles and sippy cups that it actually has a name: bottle rot.
Don’t worry; we aren’t suggesting that parents should ban sugary drinks entirely. However, we do recommend cutting back and limiting them to mealtimes. For children who use a sippy cup or bottle to fall asleep, try filling it with water instead of something sweet.
Treats, Snacks, and Candy
Sugar in solid form is also a problem. Most of the popular snack foods our kids love are full of sugar too. It takes saliva about half an hour to neutralize leftover food particles and wash away sugary residue. Constant snacking interrupts this crucial cycle just as much as continuously sipping on juice does.
Again, we’re not saying you should ban sugary treats and snacks. Like with sugary drinks, these treats are best enjoyed at mealtimes instead of spread throughout the day. If your child relies on snacks between meals for energy, offer them healthier treats like sliced fruits and veggies rather than processed, high-sugar snack foods.
Tips for Parents
Parents play a major role in ensuring their children’s good oral health. The most important part is to teach kids good brushing and flossing habits and help them understand the power these habits have. Use encouragement and positive reinforcement to build good habits, try to make it fun, and help your child feel involved by letting them choose a toothbrush they like.
You can also be a good example of what proper brushing and flossing look like, and make sure to avoid bacteria-spreading practices like sharing spoons or cleaning a dropped pacifier with your mouth.
Your Best Ally: Your Child’s Pediatric Dentist
Different factors (like genetics) leave some children more susceptible to tooth decay than others, so a cavity may appear even if you’re doing everything right. That’s why it’s so important to keep up with your child’s regular dental cleanings and exams. We can catch problems early and recommend solutions to keep your child’s smile healthy and bright!