Did you know that tooth decay is the third most common disease in Canada? And that four in 1000 children require dental treatment in hospital operating rooms? Not only that, but dental caries (cavities) interferes with a child's ability to eat, sleep and thrive.
The good news is that dental caries is a preventable disease! Simple changes to you and your child's diet and dental health behaviour can have a great impact on the development of a healthy mouth and a bright smile. Oral Health Month is a great time to start these changes!
What can you do?
- Take care of your own dental needs. Decay-causing bacteria can be spread from person to person so brush and floss daily and have the dentist remove active decay. Limit passing bacteria to infants by not sharing toothbrushes or cutlery and by not licking soothers to clean them.
- Once teeth appear, brush your child's teeth twice daily with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Don't rush your brush! Starting at one point, slowly work your way around the entire mouth until the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of both the upper and lower teeth are done – this will take you three to five minutes.
- At least once a month, lift your child's lip to check for newly erupted teeth and white or brown spots on the teeth.
- Teach your child to drink from a regular, lidless cup. Offer plain water instead of other liquids for thirst between meals. Limit acidic drinks like pop and fruit beverages.
- A balanced diet is crucial to the development and maintenance of healthy teeth and gums. Choose a variety of healthy foods that do not stick to teeth. There are some foods that seem to protect against tooth decay, including hard cheeses like cheddar and mozzarella, nuts, meats, fish, poultry, and eggs.
- Start regular dental visits at age one or after teeth start appearing. Refer children with signs of dental decay to dental staff at your local health unit. Public health dental staff offer free counseling and fluoride varnish treatments.
Look for this article - along with several other stories about child health - in the upcoming (Summer 2016) issue of Healthier You magazine!