Do you have a child between the ages of 5 and 17? Dental decay is the most common chronic disease in young people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Beginning with good hygiene habits from the start will go a long way to prevention.
Here are some tips to help them along the way:
- Healthy habits are key. Teens, and younger kids as well, eat quick meals i.e. “nutrition” bars and fast food to stay alert and on schedule between school, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. These habits can damage oral and overall health. Access to healthy snacks such as apples, carrot sticks and cheese is important. Keeping a travel-size toothbrush in a locker or backpack can help teens keep up good teeth-cleaning habits by brushing after meals and snacks.
Other ways for kids to keep their mouths clean throughout the day: Chewing sugarless gum with xylitol (a natural sweetener) after meals or snack, and drinking water throughout the day can help cleanse the teeth of excess bacteria and food debris.All kids should visit their dentist at least twice a year. Regular dental visits and cleanings not only help keep their smiles bright, they can also help catch minor problems before they become worse.
- Avoid soda. Consuming soft drinks both at school and home is on the rise. Sugar in sweetened sodas can cause cavities, and acidic flavor additives (found in both unsweetened and sweetened sodas) can also erode and damage tooth enamel.
If they do end up drinking sodas, encourage them to drink water after, to rinse out the sugar and flavors.
- Protect their mouths. Oral injuries do occur in many sports, but kids can prevent injuries by wearing a mouthguard while playing. More than 200,000 injuries to the mouth and jaw occur each year. Whether a mouthguard is custom-fitted by a dentist or bought at a store, keep it clean by rinsing it often and storing it in a ventilated container.
- Avoid oral piercings. Those with tongue or other mouth piercings can easily chip their teeth while eating, sleeping, talking and chewing. This fracture can be just in the tooth enamel, which would require a filling, or it may go deeper, which can lead to a root canal or tooth extraction.Additionally, infections are common with oral piercings. The tongue can become infected and swell to such a degree that it interferes with breathing. Unclean piercing equipment can cause other infections, such as blood-borne hepatitis.