Six months ago I took my kids to their first dentist visit.
This time around I got a little shock: cavities.
My daughter had two tiny cavities between her back to molars on the left side. Thankfully, the procedure to fill those cavities the next day went smoothly. (Hooray for terrific pediatric dentists with numbing gel that prevents preschoolers from feeling the shot of anesthetic, and for Princess Sophia, which kept my own little princess mesmerized while they worked.)
The question is, how can you help prevent cavities in small children?
Most of us know that sweets should be limited.
Snacks that come primarily from the refrigerator (think fruits, vegetables like carrot sticks, cheese and yogurt) are better for children’s teeth than crackers, pretzels or other foods that tend to linger on tooth surfaces long after snack time.
Children should be offered milk and water instead of juice or soda pop. If juice is offered, it is a good idea to water it down some; using straws can allow less contact of the juice with the teeth.
Ideally children should be brushing twice a day. If it is only going to be once, make sure it’s at bedtime!
An adult should brush the child’s teeth until the child is at least 8 years old. It’s fine to let the child practice brushing his/her own teeth, but preschoolers do not have the wrist strength/dexterity to brush their own teeth adequately. (Oops! This is one thing we are changing around here!)
Flossing is a MUST! That tiny little space between those back molars can only be reached with floss. It is tricky to get your hands and a long piece of floss in a little one’s mouth; that’s where those little floss picks can really come in handy! And, be sure to wiggle the floss all the way down to the gum line. (We’ve flossed the kids’ teeth, but never on a nightly basis — another big change around here!)
For extra fluoride protection, children should skip rinsing. The dentist told me not to let the kids have anything to drink after they brush at nighttime, that includes water. In fact, she suggested they don’t rinse the toothpaste off their teeth. (This is the change that is driving my daughter nuts! She’s one of those, “I need a drink” kids when she’s in bed.)
My husband wondered about fluoride rinses that are made for kids. If you choose to try one, remember that they are recommended only for kids 4 and up. Children need to be old enough to know to spit out the rinse and not to swallow it as too much fluoride can be dangerous. (Our youngest is 4 and still does not spit when brushing, so this is not in our immediate plans.)
We have made some changes to our bedtime brushing habits. My daughter has two “trouble spots” on the other side of her mouth that I’m hoping don’t turn into cavities.
Just remember, it’s never too early to instill healthy dental habits!