By Brandi M. Seals
It seems that the fight against cavities is a never ending battle, but if you start off on the right foot with your child, you will go along way towards preventing cavities.
Start with a few simple rules. They include:
Brushing teeth should be done twice a day
Try to avoid sugary products
Never drink from someone else's cup or share utensils
The first two rules are universal. Kids and adults alike really should be brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once. If your child has braces, jump up brushing to once after every meal. Kids with braces are more prone to build up.
Brushing and flossing helps remove build up of plaque from the teeth and gums. You can use a manual or electric toothbrush. Whatever you prefer is fine as long as you do a good job of keeping the teeth clean. Be sure to get along the gum lines. Plaque bugs like to hang out there and can lead to gingivitis.
School-aged children should be able to brush their own teeth. Just be sure they do it for at least a minute and that they get everywhere they need to. Brushing should be done in the morning and in the evening. Flossing can be done anytime. It helps remove gunk from between the teeth that can form cavities. Trust me, get cavities between teeth filled is no fun at all.
If your child is too young to brush his own teeth, do it for him. Be sure to use a pea sized amount of toothpaste. This is when your child will learn how to brush his own teeth in the future so be sure to do a good job. If his teeth are close enough to be nearly touching, it is time to introduce flossing as well.
If your baby does not have teeth yet, it does not mean you are off the hook. Wipe his or her gums with a damp cloth after each feeding. Believe it or not, cavities can begin to develop this early on.
Sugary drinks and foods are partially responsible for cavities. The germs in our mouths feed off these thing and they weaken the tooth enamel. Try to set your kid up with healthy eating habits to avoid some of this extra sugar. Instead of giving treats and snacks loaded with sugar, try hooking your kids on vegetables and fruits. Fruit is great if your child craves sweets. It is sweet and healthier than the alternative.
Good eating habits start early and continue through out your child's life. If you teach them right now, they will be less likely to turn to junk food as adults. To help, never use food as a reward. For example, do not say "if you do your homework you can have some cookies." This too sets up poor eating habits that can last a lifetime.
It may seem odd to request that parents and children not share utensils, but it is exactly that sharing that leads to problems. Some people believe certain families are just born with bad teeth. The teeth are somehow weaker and more susceptible to cavities. That's not true.
What happens is that as adults, we have germs in our mouths. They are what are attacking our teeth. They did not get there naturally. No one is born with these germs. We pick them up over time by sharing saliva with other people. Families that have bad teeth are swapping around strong germs that are attacking their teeth.
Try not to expose your child to these germs. If you share utensils or cups with your child, he or she will pick up your mouth germs. Once they are there, there is little anyone can do to get rid of them. Only keeping the teeth clear of debris by brushing will make a small difference. Make it a rule that nobody shares or eats off each other's plates. It spreads not only mouth germs, but also those that can cause colds.
You probably will not be able to prevent cavities from forming at some point in your child's life, but if you follow these four simple rules, you have done a lot to keep your child's smile beautiful and clean.