Four-year-old Evan had another cavity; this was his tenth one in the past year, including the root canal last month. His mom, Amy, was frustrated. She had assumed that Evan’s teeth were just prone to decay because she’d had a lot of cavities when she was a kid, but he’d had so many in the past year that now she was worried.
Amy tried to give Evan and his little brother healthy foods and snacks, and once in a while the boys ate sweet treats, but not enough to cause so many cavities, she thought.
Dental cavities in children declined from the 1970s to the 1990s. Then, in the mid-90s, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found a reversal, with a significant rise in primary tooth decay in younger children.
Fighting your children’s cavities may be easier than you think. As Dr. Yolanda Weaver, DDS in Pediatric and Restorative Dentistry, said, “Parents can help their kids avoid cavities. It takes just a few simple changes to make a really big difference.”
Five tips that will help you fight your kids’ cavities:
1 The best tip for parents is to get their kids in the habit of brushing twice a day. Make it a regular part of their daily routine, so it’s not a chore. You can make it fun and reward their progress. When your kids are young, you should brush their teeth for them to be sure their teeth are cleaned properly. The best kind of toothbrush for your kids is the over-the-counter, rechargeable electric ones. They remove more plaque and tartar than regular toothbrushes, and many affordable choices are available. Remember to change the brush heads every few months, as the bristles will wear down with use.
2 Floss removes a fair amount of plaque and tartar buildup. “There are a lot of reports out now that say flossing before you brush is best,” said Amanda Garcia, dental hygienist at Hires Dental Care in Toledo, “but flossing either before or after works, just get your kids flossing. Parents need to floss for their kids at first until they have the dexterity.”
3 Limit sticky snacks and fruit juices. When Amy finally asked her dentist about fighting cavities,the advice surprised her. “My dentist told me to stop giving Evan sticky treats and limit his fruit juice. She said these two things are the biggest cause of decay in kids’ teeth. Garcia confirmed this, “We’re seeing a big increase in tooth decay among children primarily because they’re drinking a lot of fruit drinks. Kids aren’t drinking sodas like they used to, but now they drink Gatorade, vitamin waters, mineral waters and these are filled with sugar. Also, teens are drinking sweet coffee drinks, which also can cause decay.”
4 If your child takes a daily gummy vitamin, you may want to change to another type of vitamin. Gummy vitamins stick to teeth, and anything that sticks to the teeth can cause decay. One mom was shocked to hear that her five-year-old daughter’s gummy vitamins were probably the culprit behind her need for a root canal. Most kids’ vitamins come in gummy form because they’re easy to give to children, but there are alternatives on the market.
5 Snacking on baked goods—such as cookies or cakes—in moderation is better than gummy snacks or fruit juices. These treats, although they contain sugar, don’t stick to teeth, and that’s the big difference when it comes to cavities.
Amy took her dentist’s advice to heart. She stopped handing out fruit snacks for treats, bought regular kids’ vitamins and limited how much juice her boys drank every day. It paid off, and at his next dental visit, Evan’s teeth were cavity-free.