Halloween is a time-honored tradition in the United States, but the potential damage from all those sugary sweets on children’s teeth is downright frightening.
It takes only 20 minutes of a sugary attack on the teeth to lead to cavities. Sugars and starches greatly contribute to the production of plaque acids that attack the tooth enamel and create cavities.
Here are some tips to help keep your little ghoul’s and goblin’s teeth healthy:
- Avoid long-lasting, hard candy (unless it is sugar-free) as these types of treats remain in the mouth for a much longer time, continuously coating tiny teeth with sugar.
- Dole out candy with meals so the sugars are carried away by the saliva generated by eating.
- Sticky candies, like gummy bears, take longer to get washed away by saliva, increasing the risk for tooth decay.
- Sour sweets are highly acidic and can damage tooth enamel.
- Brush your teeth after eating sugary treats.
This Halloween, consider offering teeth-friendly treats like sugar-free gum or lollipops as an alternative. Chewing gum or enjoying a sucker produces saliva, which helps remove cavity-creating acid from teeth.
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush teeth in a circular motion.
- Since your toothbrush can only clean one or two teeth at a time, change its position to properly clean each tooth.
- Gently brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces and the chewing surfaces of all your teeth.
- Use the tip of your brush to clean the inside surfaces of your front teeth using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
- Be sure not to brush your teeth too hard or use a hard bristled toothbrush, as this can cause your gums to recede and also wears down the tooth structure. These conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity.
- Last but not least, remember to brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
Do this for two minutes, two times a day, and floss once a day to keep your smile healthy.
For tips on selecting a toothpaste, read “Are you using the right toothpaste?”
Source: American Dental Association
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Start practicing good dental health habits when they are young. Here are a few tips to keep your child’s smile healthy:
- Avoid giving your child sweetened liquids
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day and floss once a day
- Make sure your child gets enough fluoride
- Start regular dental visits by age 3
- Ask your dentist for advice on sealants and mouth guards
- Keep your dentist informed of any changes in your child’s health
- Set a good example for your child!
Patients often tell me they have a hard time getting their young children to brush their teeth. It doesn’t have to be a battle each time. Here are some ideas to try with your kids:
- Start young. Toddlers love to imitate their parents. Give them a toothbrush and sit with your child on the bathroom floor so he/she can watch you use a toothbrush and try to copy it.
- Have your child brush the teeth of their stuffed animal or doll.
- Make it fun! Sign a song, read a story, turn it into a game.*
- Let your child practice brushing your teeth, while you brush his or hers.
- Have your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store.
- Children learn from example. If they see that you are taking good care of your teeth they will want to do the same.
*See 7 Toothbrushing Tunes Kids (and Parents) Will Love from the American Dental Association (ADA).
It is hard to resist the sugary treats and candy that seem to appear out of nowhere each October. You don’t have to deprive yourself in order to protect your teeth because Dr. Baker has some tips to keep your smile cavity-free.
Try to avoid the sticky, chewy, hard and crunchy treats. Soft and sticky candies stick to the teeth, giving the decay-causing bacteria time to decay your teeth. Hard candies dissolve slowly in your mouth, coating your teeth with sugar for a long period of time. They can also chip your teeth and cause choking in younger children.
Some Halloween candy alternatives:
- Animal crackers
- Stickers or temporary tattoos
- Pencils, pens or erasers
- Small packs of crayons
- Plastic jewelry
- Lip balm
If there’s one thing my patients need to do more of, it’s floss. Regular flossing removes plaque buildup between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, preventing gum disease.
Types of dental floss:
- Unwaxed floss—a thin nylon floss made of about 35 strands twisted together. It fits into tight spaces if your teeth are close together, but it can be prone to shredding or breaking.
- Waxed floss—a standard nylon floss with a light wax coating. It is less likely to break, but the wax coating may make it harder to use in tight spots.
- Dental tape—broader and flatter than standard floss and comes in waxed or unwaxed versions. People with more space between their teeth often find dental tape more comfortable to use than traditional floss.
Using a “flosser”
If you have trouble reaching the back of your mouth or gripping traditional floss, try a flosser. A flosser is basically a piece of floss on a handle. Like toothbrushes, flossers come in a variety of shapes and colors (even battery-powered!). Look for one with a long handle for easier holding and a compact head that makes it easier to reach behind the back teeth—a particularly tricky spot to clean. Dental flossers also come in a variety of kid-friendly colors and cartoon characters.
The best type of dental floss is the one that is most comfortable for you. The easier to use, the more likely the patient will floss on a regular basis.
Source: Oral B