The holidays are just around the corner, and from Halloween sweets, marshmallow-covered yams and Thanksgiving pies to piles of Christmas cookies and candy canes, your little ones are sure to spend the season with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
What they’re less likely to be thinking about is how all those sugary foods may affect their oral health. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease affecting children, and a sugar-heavy diet is a major contributor.
Here are a few tips to help you and your kids protect your smiles over the holidays.
1. Limit sugary foods
First, it’s important to understand that sugar itself isn’t what causes tooth decay. Childrens’ mouths are home to millions of bacteria. Some of them are actually beneficial — they help us digest the food that we eat and keep harmful bacteria from taking over.
Other bacteria, however, aren’t so great. One strain in particular, streptococcus mutans, is particularly harmful. Streptococcus mutans feeds on the sugars and starches in your food. As it eats, it converts those sugars and starches into acids that cause cavities by eroding the protective enamel on your teeth. And, much like your growing children, streptococcus mutans never gets full, meaning the more sugar is in your kids’ diets, the more enamel-eroding acid it creates.
Limiting candy and sweets to mealtime, avoiding sugary drinks like juice and soda, and replacing sugary snacks with fibrous fruits and vegetables and unsweetened dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are all great ways to promote healthy bacteria and keep the nasty ones in check.
2. Make sure your kids brush after every meal, and floss every day
Not only does brushing a flossing remove the sugars and bits of leftover food that bacteria feed on, it also makes sure harmful bacteria don’t have a place to hide.
Harmful bacteria sticks to teeth and gums by forming an invisible film called plaque. If plaque isn’t removed regularly, it hardens into tartar, which can cause gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth loss as well as cavities.
Most plaque can be removed by brushing in a circular motion for at least two minutes after every meal. We know or an antsy child two minutes can seem like an eternity, so making up games to play or songs to sing in their head while they brush can be helpful. Flossing once a day is also important to remove plaque from in between teeth and around the gumline.
3. Remember to keep regular appointments at the dentist
We know the holidays are busy, but keeping your children’s regularly scheduled cleaning and checkups are critical to maintaining a healthy smile and detecting potential problems before they become more serious. To set up an appointment for your children, give our office a call.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ve already taken a great step toward caring for your child’s health. Maintaining your children’s oral health with regular trips to the dentist is just as important as taking them for their annual checkups at the doctor.
One of the questions we get from parents is, why should I take my child to a pediatric dentist rather than to the same general dentist I see?
1. More training
Pediatric dentists have more training than a general dentist. Pediatric dentistry is one of nine recognized specialties by the American Dental Association. After four years of dental school, pediatric dentists spend an additional two-three years learning to care for children’s specific dental needs. That means they’re more focused on preventative care, spotting problems specific to children, and helping children establish the oral health and hygiene habits that will help them enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles. Pediatric dentists are trained to care for patients with medical, physical, or mental disabilities. They’re also a great resource for parents in need of information about how to teach their kids to properly brush and floss, teaching them about the effects of sugary snacks on their health, or answering any other questions they might have.
2. Offices designed with kids in mind
We know that, especially when it comes to how people feel about the dentist, first impressions can last a lifetime. Did you know that more than 50% of Americans are uncomfortable visiting the dentist, and 15% of Americans avoid the dentist completely due to acute anxiety? Good oral health is all about establishing and maintaining healthy habits, starting early in life. That’s why Pediatric Dental Specialists’ offices are geared toward making your kids as comfortable and relaxed as possible, so they never associate a visit to the dentist as anything other than positive.
3. We love kids!
We’re certainly not saying that your general dentist doesn’t love your kids, but we’ve dedicated our lives to making sure they enjoy a lifetime of good oral health. Come see why we’re the top choice for pediatric dentistry in Nebraska.