April is Dental Health month and this year the Canadian Dental Association selected the theme: “Reduce consumption of sugary drinks and make water your drink of choice”. This is also one of the main messages of the Northern Health Dental Program. An added benefit of drinking water in Terrace and Fort St John is that the water is fluoridated and fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel and help protect teeth against cavities.
Making water your drink of choice
We encourage parents to start offering their child small sips of water from an open cup starting at about 6 months old (for information on appropriate beverage choices for children, visit: Milk and young children: what you need to know). We all need water for hydration and by starting at an early age, children learn that drinking water is a normal part of daily life.
But what about fruit juice? For many years, we’ve recommended caution with fruit juice, and in the updated Canada’s food guide, fruit juice is classified as a sugary drink. This change recognizes that the sugar content of unsweetened apple and orange juices is about the same as Kool-Aid or pop. Other examples of sugary drinks are:
- Iced tea
- Soft drinks
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
- Alcoholic beverages
- Fruit-flavoured drinks and punches
- Flavoured waters with added sugars
- Sweetened milks like chocolate milk
- Sweetened hot or cold coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and other specialty drinks
If offered, sugary drinks should be served with a meal or as a planned, sit-down snack (not throughout the day for rehydration).
Tips for good dental health
- On top of drinking water, it’s important to brush for two minutes in the morning and before bed with a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Parents should brush their children’s teeth with a fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth appears. Brushing (and flossing) removes the sticky plaque and food debris, while the fluoride re-mineralizes the tooth surface.
- Avoid nibbling throughout the day, instead consider three meals and 2-3 planned, sit-down snacks per day. Mouth-healthy snacks include hard cheeses, nuts, vegetables, and non-acidic fruits. (Note: nuts should be age-appropriate to lower the risk of choking.)
- See a dentist regularly for examinations and cleanings. This is the best way to detect a problem before it gets worse. Note: BC dentists are now only treating urgent dental emergencies in their offices due to COVID-19. Once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, patients will be able to return to their local dentist for all dental procedures. If you or someone is experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room.
Good preventive behaviours will give you the best chance to be cavity-free for your entire life!
You can help your child develop good habits by modelling good habits! For more information, visit Northern Health's Dental Program page.