Everyone is familiar with the relationship between cavities and sugar. Dentists have conducted extensive research on this topic in schools, neighborhoods, and clinics. Various institutions, well-known toothpaste and toothbrush companies, and popular drink companies, sponsor oral health programs investing large sums of money to study of the relationship between sugar and cavities.
Many parents are aware of how important taking care of your teeth is for a healthy mouth, including brushing your teeth after every meal. However, some parents are not aware of the negative consequences of their child drinking sugary drinks without brushing their teeth immediately afterwards, or leaving a bottle in a baby's mouth for a long time to help them fall asleep. Sugar from juice or milk or other caloric beverages remains on a baby's teeth for hours and damages the enamel which results in what is known as baby bottle tooth decay or nursing bottle mouth.
The prevalence of cavities in baby teeth of children ages 2 to 5 increased to 28% in 1999-2004, from 24% in 1988-1994, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, "Trends in Oral Health Status-United States, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004." The report says that one reason for the rise in baby tooth decay is that parents are giving their children more processed snack foods than in the past, and more bottled water or other drinks instead of fluoridated tap water. It also points out that kids who have decay in their teeth in their preschool years, are at a higher risk of having decay in their teeth as adults.
If you want your children to have a healthy smile, follow these simple tips:
- Proper oral hygiene should begin before a baby's first tooth comes out. After feeding, clean the baby's gums with a soft cloth such as a towel. When the first teeth come out, brush the baby's teeth with a soft toothbrush twice a day.
- Don't allow your child to wake up and go to sleep with a bottle. Cavities can form quickly if a bottle is in contact with your baby's teeth for a long period of time. Fill the baby's bottle with only water, if they need it to go to sleep.
- When your child reaches preschool age, use toothpaste with fluoride. Don't use too much toothpaste because children at this age could swallow it and an excess of fluoride could cause stains to appear on your child's teeth.
- Frequently eating sweet or sticky foods and drinking sugary or strong drinks damages your child's teeth. Provide healthy foods and drinks to your kids for both meals and snacks. Offer them fresh fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. For beverages, water is the best option, as well as low-fat plain milk.
- Brush your child's teeth daily, after every meal and snack.
- When your child turns 1 year old, take him/her to the dentist. Your child's first teeth will have already come out and your child will become familiar with the doctor. At about two years of age, take your child to the dentist for his second visit in order to monitor his/her oral health. After that you should take your child to the dentist at least twice a year for a regular check-up and cleaning.
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