It is a common attitude that because children do not currently have their secondary (adult) teeth, that it is not important to care for their teeth. While it is true that some of the damage primary (“baby”) teeth sustain won’t be permanent, it is also the case that there are some things that can lead to long-term damage and short-term suffering. Read on to find out more about how to make sure you are properly caring for your child’s dental health. 

Avoid Tooth-Decaying Foods

One of the biggest things that we can do at any age to contribute to dental health is avoiding tooth-decaying diets. The number one offender is sugar, which is both acidic and also acts on enamel to destroy it. Foods that are heavy in carbs can also lead to additional dental conditions that can lead to tooth decay. In general, it is recommended to avoid sugary drinks and candy, avoid a diet based solely on bread or other carb heavy foods, and even avoid certain acidic fruits when not enjoyed in moderation. A serving once a day is fine, but you would not want to have, for example, more than 5 citrus fruits every single day. This is because ascorbic acid is acidic, and because of the sugar that is in the fruit. Strawberries also fall under this umbrella, though it should be stressed that fruit is always better than candy, and still good in moderation.

Provide Low-Sugar Alternatives

In general, low-sugar food and drink options and alternatives should be provided. Fresh vegetables, lean meats, and yogurts with no or low added sugar yogurts are just a few of the options. Be aware that “no sugar” products can still have high sugar, and always read nutrition labels carefully. Cheese and milk can be introduced in moderation. Fruits are great, but as mentioned above, citrus fruits and strawberries are slightly more acidic. A few a day won’t hurt, however, and they can be a good source of Vitamin C and fiber. 

Practice Good Tooth Care Early On

Taking care of your child’s teeth is equally as important as making healthy dietary choices for them. Children should start brushing their teeth after their first incisors erupt, and flossing should begin as soon as any two teeth start to connect. Fluoride can be introduced via fluoridated tap water or through toothpastes that contain fluoride twice a day. Fluoride can also be introduced via fluoride varnish, which a pediatrician can generally give until your baby has a dentist of their own (typically around 6 months after their first tooth or around their 1st birthday). Varnish can help protect the tooth enamel, ensuring that there is no tooth decay. One piece of advice often given is to make the appointment as soon as their first tooth appears so you do not forget. 

Why Child Tooth Care Matters

According to a study published by the University of Central London in March 2015, 35% of 12 year-olds and 28% of 15 year-olds are uncomfortable smiling because of their teeth. Severe tooth decay markers are correlated with this, but not totally. This explains another core reason to care about your child’s dental health: bad dental health can lead to your child feeling embarrassed. Obviously, if we can take steps as parents to avoid embarrassment for our children, then that is what we will do. Especially since the steps you can take now are so much smaller and daily than the larger steps required to correct them later on down the line, they should be a lot easier to stick with.

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