Nearly one in three children ages two to five years old in the U.S. are affected by tooth decay. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) and we are sharing tips and tricks for parents on how to help their kids avoid tooth decay and cavities.
Parents are bombarded with unsolicited advice and health findings that are constantly changing, said Dr. Jade Miller, AAPD President. We don’t want to add to that stress, but there are a few common misconceptions, that if cleared up, could help make a huge difference in your child’s oral health, which is linked to their overall health & wellness.
Tooth decay remains a top chronic infectious disease among children and can compromise the health, development, and quality of life of children, both in the short and long term. The good news is that it’s nearly 100 percent preventable. Following these four simple rules can significantly benefit children’s teeth by keeping tooth decay at bay:
1. When it comes to sugary treats and beverages, it’s how often, not how much.
Children, or adults for that matter, shouldn’t graze or savor candy and sugary drinks including, sports drinks and juice. That prolonged exposure to sugar and acid can wreak havoc on teeth. Instead, stick to designated meal and snack times and have them drink plenty of water throughout the day.
2. Don’t put babies to bed with a bottle.
Milk and juice contain sugar. When babies are put to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, the sugar from the milk coats their teeth the entire time they are sleeping causing tooth decay which is deemed Baby Bottle Tooth Decay. If a bottle works to soothe a baby before sleep, opt for filling it with water.
3. Wean children off of their pacifier by age three.
It is completely normal for children to sooth themselves with a pacifier, however, prolonged use of a pacifier can increase the risk of cavities, and can affect the way a child’s teeth bite together, sometimes causing an overbite. Talk to your pediatric dentist who can assist in encouraging children to stop a sucking habit and discuss each child’s particular situation.
4. Avoid topical teething gels and rings.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly warns against using teething gels that contain benzocaine or lidocaine because they can seriously harm your child. Parents and caregivers should stay away from teething rings too, which contain chemicals and low levels of BPA, despite labels citing otherwise – which can be harmful to your child.