As a parent, you might feel frustrated when you brush your children's teeth faithfully each day, but when you take them to the dentist for a routine check-up, they still have developing areas of decay. What could be going wrong? A lot of families struggle with ongoing dental health problems, and dealing with the cavities and fillings can be both stressful and financially costly.
If you're wondering what else you can do to keep the cavities away, try these five ways of boosting your family's dental health.
1. Cut back on the snack foods.
Snacking is the silent killer for children's teeth, especially because a lot of kids' snack food are high in sugars and simple carbohydrates. You might think a simple snack of fish-shaped crackers is fine for a kid, but even when chewing crackers, enzymes in the saliva break down the carbohydrates into sugars that give fuel to bacteria. The crackers make a paste that coat the teeth, get into the gum line, get stuck in between individual teeth.
Choose better snacks, like veggies or a protein source. After your child is done with a snack, rinse out their mouth with water. Don't allow all-day grazing because this exposes your child's teeth to constant fuel for harmful mouth bacteria.
2. Remember that kids need floss too.
You might be great at flossing your own teeth, but you might not realize that kids, even young kids, need to floss their teeth each day. Floss is not just for getting food out from between teeth. It also functions to help clean plaque off of teeth where the brush doesn't reach down near the gum line between teeth. Even if your child has gaps between their teeth so food isn't stuck there, flossing still helps to prevent cavities.
3. Encourage water for drinks.
Drinks are another sneaky catalyst for decay. Your child might want juice, soda, or milk throughout the day. Instead, if you are going to give these drinks, give them at meal times. Provide only water between meals to avoid the sugar bath these drinks give to your child's teeth. Yes, even milk has natural sugars that encourage decay. If you must give juice or milk between meals, always provide a follow-up of water to help rinse out your child's mouth.
4. Brush longer.
Brushing your own teeth can seem like a chore sometimes, so brushing your child's teeth can be even more work for you. You might quickly run the brush over your child's teeth before shuffling them off to bed. However, brushing long enough is important to completely clean out your child's mouth and to remove plaque. Set a song or timer for two minutes to help both you and your child get into the habit of brushing for the right length of time. Some electric toothbrushes come with built-in vibrating timers that can let your child know when they've brushed long enough. Not only with you all have cleaner teeth, but you'll set in the habit of brushing for the right period time so that your kids keep doing it as they get older.
5. Stay on top of good dental habits even on "off" days.
Finally, life with kids can be hectic, and on days when your schedule gets thrown off the tracks, dental hygiene habits can go right out the window with them. Set reminders on your phone or set a sign up in the bathroom to remind your kids to keep brushing and flossing each day, even when they are sick or when your family gets busy with vacation, sports games, or day trips.