It is the year of “What is best for the children?!”
There are lawn signs everywhere, constant letters to the editors (from every side), and passionate school board discussions. Our children are the future and definitely deserve what is best. Beyond the focus of books they are reading and lessons in school. we should be asking what is best for their health, including their oral health.
The prevalence and rate of tooth decay in the youth of our area is rampant. Parents, please read this and take note as to “What is best for your children’s dental health.”
Children start getting teeth around 6 months old, which means so should home care begin at that time. Kids will keep several of their primary (baby) teeth until 12 to 13 years old. Primary teeth are important for more than the obvious reasons of smiling, eating and talking. They guide the adult teeth into their correct position, and without them, adult teeth will be crowded and in poor position. It is a very common misperception that they are “trial teeth” and lack importance.
Unfortunately for children, their primary or baby teeth are not as durable as their adult teeth. The enamel—or outer protective layer of the tooth—is significantly thinner than an adult’s. With thin armor, treatment is needed sooner and more urgently than in adults.
Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the most common diseases seen in children. Dental caries are mostly preventable with a healthy diet and home care. Home care involves physically removing the soft plaque on the teeth by any means possible (wash cloth, rubber finger toothbrush, regular toothbrush, flossers). Parents need to start cleaning twice a day as soon as teeth come in. Kids will need help until they have the manual dexterity to write in cursive.
Teens will need constant reminders because…well…they are teens. Equally important to avoiding tooth decay is diet. The worst of the worst is soda pop. Just about everything has sugar in it these days but soft drinks are not only loaded with sugar, but are directly destructive due to their acidity. Providing minors with Mountain Dew, in my opinion, verges on child abuse.
Kids are programmed to seek sugar and soda. Do not have it in the house. Having a sugared drink once in a while as a special treat is OK. Let me define that for you—one soda a month. It is not uncommon for teens to report that they drink four to six sodas or energy drinks a day!
More importantly than the amount of sugar is the frequency of exposures. Eating and drinking anything sugary should be done at one time—meal time. Between meals, healthy snacks and water are the way to go. Never put your youngster to bed with milk or juice (a sippy of anything but water will destroy a child’s teeth).
It is great to see the deep concern about our children in the local communities. If you find yourself passionately fired up about the school board, CRT and the books in the library, step back and ask yourself if you are taking that same level of concern for the direct health of the kiddos in your care.
There are numerous other aspects to children’s dental health, including sealants, fluoride, toothpaste, dental visits, fillings, etc. We are more than happy to go in depth with any patients about steps for parents to leave a legacy of a healthy, beautiful smile.
(New Holstein Family Dental is part of the Tri-County News Preferred Business Sponsor program. Learn more at www.newholsteinandkielfamilydental.com.)