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Monday, June 19, 2017



Healthy dental habits should start early

Sometimes, dental health doesn't become a priority until it becomes a problem. This can be particularly true when it comes to kids - when snacks and sodas are the foods of choice and main concern. Promoting healthy brushing and flossing habits at a young age is crucial in maintaining dental health, which can have an impact on overall health, as well as being mindful of a proper diet. The Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention (CDC) states that tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions in childhood in the United States.

There can be many factors that contribute to poor dental health in children, including ineffective brushing and flossing, food choice and genetics. For toddlers, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a common cause of tooth decay is going to bed with a bottle, which can promote bacterial growth from the milk or juice. It is recommended that, should a parent give a child something to drink before bed, it should always be water. When it comes to diet and nutrition, the problem most seen in today's diet is sugary drinks. The sugar and acid in sodas and juice are a huge factor in contributing to tooth decay. The issue becomes more of a dental problem when teeth are exposed to sugar for extended periods of time, such as when a child sips on a soda or snacks on candy for longer than normal. The AAPD states that if these food items are to be consumed, they should be eaten  right away and not linger. Set a time limit for drinking something with sugar, and take away the cup within a reasonable amount of time.

Additionally, healthy diet habits in promoting dental health can also include not letting children go to sleep with a bottle, limiting candy intake and brushing after every meal.

Many major organizations in the field of dental health, in addition to the AAPD, encourage parents to have a dental exam for their children by the age of one. This is because healthy dental care can aid in speech development and help to create space for when permanent teeth come in to grow. Furthermore, baby teeth are prone to tooth decay from their first appearance, anywhere from the age of 6 to 12 months. Having a dental exam early on a preventative measure, is recommended to avoid decay and cavities.

Another contributing factor in maintaining dental health is fluoride, a chemical compound that fights against bacteria, decay and can help to remineralize enamel in some instances. The AAPD states that fluoride is necessary for creating strong and healthy teeth in very young children, and can assist in preventing decay in older children. This means that drinking fluoridated water is pertinent, so be mindful of bottled water intake. Dental care routines can also include fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash - however, be sure to check with a doctor for children younger than two.

As children grow, there may be other factors that may need to be addressed to prevent dental health complications and issues: For example, wearing bite-guards and other protective pieces to avoid injury while playing sports may become an area of concern, depending on the activity. And while there are many reasons not to engage in smoking, the increased risk of periodontal disease can be added to that list.

In any situation, proper dental hygiene habits need to be started and maintained at home - and that includes the parents leading by example. As kids grow and watch, they engage in learned behavior through modeling. It can be helpful to make regular dental check-ups as a family and involve a morning and nightly brushing routine together as well. Dentists can assist in showing children proper ways to floss and brush, to maximize the effectiveness of their routines. If families make a collaborative effort in eating healthy and maintaining healthy teeth, children are likely to continue those healthy habits as they mature.

-Katie Ho


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