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Good health is crucial for a child to grow and succeed, and that includes good oral health. As a pediatric dentist, I want to share some tips to help ensure your children’s teeth are healthy so they can be as healthy as possible overall.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what causes cavities. If you think it’s sugar, think again! Acid is the big aggressor when it comes to forming cavities. The acid dissolves our teeth.

“Ok,” you say. “I’m not serving my kids’ tall glasses of vinegar or lemon juice, so they should be fine, right?” Let’s think about this. Right now, living on your kids’ teeth (and yours and mine, for that matter) are about 700 different species of bacteria. They make up what we call the oral microbiome, and in a clean, healthy mouth, they help to maintain our balance of oral health.

When we ingest any carbohydrate, the bacteria transform the sugars in those foods into lactic acid…and as we just learned, acid dissolves teeth! But wait, there’s more! Another important factor is the amount of time these acids are allowed to remain on our teeth. The longer the acid is in contact with our teeth, the weaker our enamel becomes; eventually it can dissolve, leaving the interior of the tooth exposed. This is what we call a cavity.

In order to avoid food (or acid) from remaining on the teeth for too long, avoid foods that get stuck in the grooves of our teeth the longest such as sweet and sticky candy and crunchy carbohydrates like crackers, pretzels, cereal, cookies, etc.

Here are some tips on minimizing the impact of food on our teeth:

  1. Serve a breakfast that includes lots of different food groups, for example, eggs, veggies, and nut butter on toast will leave you feeling more satisfied and help you be able to think about what feels good to your body before choosing a treat.
  2. Leave out a plate of cut-up veggies so kids don’t reach for the crunchy, sugary snacks after school.
  3. When thinking of snacks to send to school or on outings, include foods that provide lots of nutrients and help to fill up tummies. Great options include string cheese or sliced fruits and veggies! (And if you’re wondering about the sugar and acids in fruits, suffice it to say that fresh, whole fruits do not promote tooth decay!)
  4. Water, water, water! Save the drinks that have sugar (and acid) for special occasions to help keep your teeth strong. It’s important to note that sugar-free drinks are still acidic! Even seltzer has carbonic acid. Only water helps the mouth maintain a neutral state when it comes to acid in the mouth.
  5. Everyone – children and adults alike – should brush their teeth twice a day, once when they wake up and once before bedtime.
  6. A parent should be brushing their children’s teeth if the child isn’t old enough to tie their shoelaces. Usually around the age of 7 or 8 a has the dexterity and attentiveness to reach all tooth surfaces and can start brushing on his or her own.
  7. For children ages 3 and older, use an amount of fluoride toothpaste equivalent to the size of a pea. For children under 3, use an amount the size of a grain of rice.
  8. Don’t forget to visit your dentist every 6 months for an exam, x-rays, cleaning, and fluoride treatment. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Wishing everyone a successful and healthy fall!

-Dr. Matthew Schwed, DDS

A big thank you to Dr. Matthew Schwed, DDS, of Schwed Pediatric Dentistry for providing us with some education on this important topic. Dr. Schwed is located off of Campbell Road in Garland, TX, and has visited Lionheart Children’s Academy at Springcreek several times to teach our students about caring for their teeth as he played songs on his guitar, read a book about going to the dentist, and showed students how to brush their teeth with his giant mouth model. Learn more at his website.

Children brushing their teeth