Good Habits for a Healthy Smile
Back-to-school season is nearly here! Now more than ever is a good time to review your family’s oral hygiene practices to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep your children’s teeth and gums healthy. As the summer comes to an end and families resume their busy school and sports schedules, we often find ourselves faced with a slew of other unhealthy temptations! A rushed schedule creates a tendency for people to consume more unhealthy treats, and snack more often, than any other time of year! According to Dr. Natasha Khurana, a local board certified pediatric dentist, in combination with increased stress and busier schedules, many people tend to let their oral hygiene regimen relax and the negative effects of convenient food, sugary snacks and sports drinks can become more apparent.
Follow Dr. Khurana’s tips during this transitional period to ensure you give your family the benefit of a healthy smile.
Supervise Brushing and Flossing
Dr. Khurana recommends brushing for your children until they are 8 years old and flossing for them until their 10th birthday. She believes that once a child develops the manual dexterity to tie their own shoe laces, they should have the fine motor skills to effectively clean all the surfaces of their teeth – especially those tough to reach molars in the back!
Some children insist on brushing their own teeth and that’s okay! Always check how well they did and then go over the missed surfaces together; use this as a teaching moment! Positive reinforcement and a rewards system help to boost any child’s self-esteem!
Food and drink that is high in sugar and acidity cause double the damage to your child’s already vulnerable enamel! In addition to monitoring how much your family eats, parents should also consider the frequency and length of a child's exposure to sugar and acids. For example, sipping juice all day creates a sugary and acidic environment for hours at a time. Allowing your child to drink milk or diluted juice (up to 4-6 oz a day) only at meal times will drastically reduce their exposure time! Water is the best alternative!
Parents often ask Dr. Khurana about candy recommendations, especially if a child is on a rewards system at home. Believe it or not, milk and dark chocolate are a great treat that, in moderation, do minimal damage to your teeth because they melt away and are easy to brush off! Avoiding sticky, gummy and hard candy is the key to minimizing exposure time.
Even though returning to a set schedule, many families report feeling an exorbitant amount of stress! Did you know that stress can have an effect on your oral health?
When stress affects your mood, you are more likely to forget important steps in your home-care routine like brushing and flossing. Some of us cope with stress by indulging in more sweets. In addition to a change in diet, grinding or clenching your teeth is a common response to stress where headaches and joint (jaw) pain often develops. Grinding and clenching can actually cause damage to your teeth such as chipping and fractures! Try to relax and channel your stress into a physical activity to burn off that extra energy. If you are developing tenderness in your jaw or waking up to headache, speak to your dentist about a night-guard.
Prevention is Key!
A family history of dental decay warrants an early checkup. Tooth decay is a preventable disease. Did you know that children who begin seeing the dentist by age 1 are 40% less likely to require costly dental treatment than children who visit after the age of three? National studies have shown that preschool-aged children are getting more and more cavities. More than 1 in 4 children in the United States has had at least one cavity by the age of 4; some have cavities as early as age 2. Dr. Khurana, in accordance with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, believes establishing a dental home by age 1 is important in setting a child up for a lifetime of excellent oral health.
As the 2019-2020 school period begins, be sure to take the time to review your family’s oral health routine. Give your family the best start to the school year – a healthy smile.
Dr. Natasha Khurana is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. The mission of her practice, Sporting Smiles Pediatric Dentistry & Family Orthodontics in Gainesville, VA, is to assist patients and families in achieving and maintaining the highest level of dental health through a total body wellness approach to dentistry. You may contact a team member directly via email to answer any questions you may have – [email protected]