February 8, 2016 Top 10 Ways to Keep Kids’ Smiles Healthy February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s no surprise that sugar is waging war on our children’s teeth. Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States, and when left untreated can cause pain and infections that can permanently affect a child’s eating, speaking or learning. Approximately 1 in 5 kids ages 5 to 11, and 1 in 7 ages 12 to 19, have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth form plaque on the teeth. When that plaque interacts with sugar, acid forms that can dissolve the hard enamel on the teeth, leading to cavities. However, tooth decay is preventable, and being aware of how sugar can harm your child’s teeth – and what you can do to keep that sugar at bay – is the first step in keeping those teeth pearly white. 1. Good oral health starts before your baby is even born. Did you know that good nutrition during pregnancy can actually strengthen a baby’s tooth enamel? 2. Make a dental appointment for your child by age 1, or as soon as the first tooth erupts. A recent study found that only 10 percent of 1 year olds and 24 percent of 2 year olds have visited the dentist. If you wait until your child is older to visit the dentist, there’s a higher likelihood that decay has already taken its toll. About 40 percent of 2 to 5 year olds have cavities. It’s imperative to take good care of your child’s baby teeth, which serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. When a baby tooth is affected by a cavity, it can actually prevent the permanent tooth from erupting. 3. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle. Drinking milk, or juice, throughout the night, whether from a bottle or the breast, keeps children’s teeth bathed in sugar, a primary reason for tooth decay in very young children. The AAPD recommends weaning a child from the bottle by age 14 months. 4. Be mindful of sippy cups, too, as they promote tooth decay just like bottles (unless filled with water) by keeping teeth coated in milk or juice. Sippy cups are best limited to mealtimes and used as a transition to a regular cup with no lid. 5. Know the facts about fluoride, which is the best defense against tooth decay and can reduce tooth decay in baby teeth by 60 percent. The American Dental Association now recommends that all children, even those 2 and under, use fluoride toothpaste. (For kids 3 and under, use the equivalent of a grain of rice, and for children ages 3 through 6, use a pea-sized amount.) Your kids’ best defense against decay is ingesting decay-repairing fluoride in their drinking water, and if your water isn’t fluoridated, we can prescribe it in a gel, mouthwash or tablet. 6. Kids’ teeth need to be flossed as early as age 2, or when their teeth start to fit together closely. Just like with adults, if you don’t floss, you’re missing cleaning 35 percent of their teeth’s surfaces. Kids usually need help flossing until age 10, and they need help brushing until age 6 to 8. 7. Brush your child’s teeth after giving medicine, which often contain sugar. 8. Consider dental sealants, especially for your child’s hard-to-reach molars. A thin plastic film that forms an impenetrable barrier on the surface of the teeth, dental sealants keep out food particles that could cause cavities in your child’s teeth. The CDC reports that dental sealants reduce decay in the permanent molars by 81 percent for two years after they are placed on a child’s tooth and continue to be effective for four years after placement. 9. Take care of your own smile. Brushing and flossing your own teeth regularly sets a good example for your child and lets him or her know you value your teeth. If you have a history of dental problems, avoid sharing utensils or toothbrushes with your baby or toddler as adults can actually spread the germs that cause cavities. 10. Teach your children smart snacking habits. At Caffaratti Dental Group, we are primed and ready to help you fight the sugar wars on your children’s teeth. We can also save you time by caring for the oral health of all the members of your family, children to adult. Give us a call today at (775) 204-2532 to discuss your child’s oral health needs and schedule appointments for the whole family.