Top 10 Dental Health Tips for Parents & Kids
By Mark A. Penshorn, DDS — Schertz Dentist
- Baby teeth are important! They prepare the way for the permanent teeth and should be cared for just as carefully. As soon as children have teeth they should be brushed each morning and each evening. Parents should brush the child’s teeth until they are confident that the child is consistently able to do a good job of it on their own (frequently age 7 or 8).
- As soon as children have enough teeth so that teeth are touching the neighboring teeth (usually the “baby molars”), flossing should be done for them daily. With the use of one of the commercially available flossing aids, most children should be able to effectively accomplish this by themselves before age 10.
- Cavities should be filled promptly to avoid pain and further decay.
- Avoid sour candies such as Sour Punch and Sweet Tarts which have an acidity level that will destroy the enamel on a child’s teeth permanently if they consume these candies regularly.
- Set a time limit on large lollipops and candy canes which are licked slowly. These leave the mouth sugared for an extended amount of time, which in turn causes tooth decay more rapidly than a candy bar that is consumed quickly.
- Give children a glass of water to drink after eating any candy. This will help rinse the sugar off of the teeth and will reduce the potential for tooth decay. This is true with sticky candies, hard candies and sour candies.
- Enjoy that chocolate is the least dental unfriendly candy. But rinse your mouth after chocolate too!
- Soft drinks, sports drinks and bottled/canned lemonades are high in acidity. This higher acidity puts tooth enamel at risk. Drink a variety of beverages including water.
- To minimize damage from sweetened/acidic beverages, down a soda or sports drink quickly or with a meal. This does less damage to teeth than sipping on it for a prolonged time. Thus, a teenager who drinks his soda in several gulps is less at risk than a young child who takes an hour to finish his soda.
- Teach children to brush their teach every morning and at bedtime every night. Frequent brushing and flossing makes a huge difference in preventing tooth decay. Having clean teeth also deters gum disease.
Top 10 Dental Health Tips for Adults
- Floss daily. Floss cleans the 40% of the tooth surfaces that can’t be reached by a brush or your tongue. These areas between the teeth are where many cavities start and need to be kept clean just like the front and back of the teeth. Floss also helps keep your gums healthy.
- Brush your teeth after every meal and at bedtime. Continuing to stay ahead of plaque buildup is the simplest and most cost effective way to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- GERD (gastric reflux) will destroy tooth enamel. If you have any suspicion that heartburn-like symptoms might suggest a gastric reflux condition, see your physician promptly for evaluation and treatment.
- Be aware that many prescription medications reduce your salivary flow, which greatly increase the risk of tooth decay. Typically, if you are noticing frequent dry mouth, you may have already lost 40-50% of normal salivary flow. We can consult with you about a strategy to address this.
- Most bad breath is caused by gum disease. See more information on addressing this problem under Services.
- Sipping on acidic and/or sweetened beverages for extended periods of time will expose the tooth enamel to that sugar and acid without a chance for your saliva to rinse it off. Be aware of what you are sipping and how long it takes you to finish that beverage. An otherwise healthy mouth can become full of cavities in less than 6 months if continually bathed in a sugared or acidic liquid.
- You are never too old to get braces.
- At least 75% of obstructive sleep apnea can be successfully treated with a dental device instead of a CPAP machine. See more on treating this condition under Services.
- There is a known link between gum disease and diabetes. Keeping your gums healthy is especially important if you have this medical condition.
- In addition, recent research has implicated gum disease as a notable factor in atherosclerotic heart disease and stroke. It appears that having a chronic bacterial infection in the mouth allows a significant number of bacteria to enter the blood stream many of which will then adhere to the inside of arteries, causing or helping to form the “plaque” that blocks the arteries. If you are at risk for these cardiac conditions, you should also pay attention to your gum health.
“If I were going to a desert island and had to choose between taking a toothbrush or dental floss, I would take the floss because it would be more beneficial.”
- Dr. Mark Penshorn