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Six tips to keep your kid's teeth healthy

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
dental health, children, vitamins, juices, dried fruit, granola bars

Most parents give their children vitamins and fresh fruit juices in an effort to keep them healthy; however, according to pediatric dentist Mary Tierney, DDS, MS, some products may be harmful to their teeth. She has compiled six tips that highlight hidden factors that can impact your child’s teeth and health.

Dr. Mary, as she likes to be referred to, has more than 16 years of experience in private practice. She is the founder of City Kids Dental, PC and the co-founder of City Kids Dental North Shore, LLC.

Six tips for healthy teeth:

Gummy vitamins: they may taste great; however, they are not great for your children’s teeth. Anything of a gummy retentive texture tends to sticks to (and linger) in the grooves and crevices of the teeth and in between the teeth, which can promote cavities. A good alternative is alternaVites Kids multivitamins. The melt-in-your-mouth form of these vitamins allows them to go down quickly and not stick to teeth. They are sweetened with xylitol which dentists recommend. In addition, the sweetener helps make them taste great, so your kids will enjoy taking them.

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Juices: Most parents know to limit sodas for their children; however, juices can be a poor choice too; most tend to be high in sugar (which can lead to tooth decay). So can sports drinks or any other beverage with added sugar or citric acid flavorings. A good alternative is tap water (or if your tap doesn’t contain fluoride, then fluoridated water or a fluoride supplement); however, be careful of excessive bottled water as it doesn’t contain fluoride. If you still choose to serve juice, stick with juices that state 100% juice on the label with no added sugars. Serve diluted with water to cut down on sugar content (it’s economical too) Try not to give them more than one serving a day, to be consumed in one sitting, preferably with a meal.

Snacking: As the ADA states, foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm than in-between snacks. This is because more saliva is released during a meal than during a quick snack, which better helps wash foods from the mouth and helps lessen the effects of acids on the teeth. A good alternative for stack time is to give your children cheese, raw veggies, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

Dried fruit and granola bars: These types of snacks are sticky and can linger between a child’s teeth long after the snack is consumed. Chewy candies also have this problem. Since it is harder for saliva to reach in between teeth to act as a natural neutralizer, this can lead to calcium loss and tooth damage. A good alternative is fresh fruit, apple sauce, and snacks that go down quickly. If kids are craving sweets and want a special treat, opt for a candy bar or chocolate treats since those aren’t sticky and don’t linger in their mouth; alternatively, try xylitol lollipops. Always follow with water.

Brushing teeth too soon after a meal: It is best to wait an hour after a meal before brushing. Meals and snacks leave an acid coating on the teeth, especially citrus fruits or soft drinks (particularly lemonade). If you brush too soon, you are just brushing your teeth with the acid, which can lead to tooth erosion. A good alternative is to just rinse your mouth with tap water after eating or drinking. Drink acidic drinks through a straw, which limits the amount of contact the liquid has directly with the teeth.

Reference: City Kids Dental, PC

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