Parenting: Secret cavity makers

November 3, 2011

But, there are other not so obvious cavity-makers of which parents should be aware.

Pediatric Dentist Dr. George Thomas Lynch of Cobblestone Kids Pediatric Dentistry of Philadelphia (aka "Dr. George") advices parents to brush and floss their children's teeth thoroughly after consuming candies, cookies, crackers and other treats very high in sugar/carbohydrate content.

Dr. George tells us, "Brushing, flossing and drinking water afterwards usually are enough to remove those sugary deposits that sit in the nooks and crannies of our teeth and attract cavity-causing bacteria. There are some of these treats; however, that inevitably cause cavities because of how they are processed and thus is very hard to mechanically remove off of the teeth. Gummy snacks, Fruit Roll-ups and Taffies are so processed and sticky that even our saliva (Mother Nature's mouthwash) will not break down and wash away these deposits. As for gummy vitamins, parents should be extremely aware that these sticky supplements are processed the same way. These are usually given every day on a consistent basis and usually sent and chewed by the same tooth day-in and day-out, thus resulting as a constant insult to the teeth and a recipe for large cavities."

Dr. George recommends a chewable vitamin, like Flintstones, or one of the new children's vitamins flavored with xylitol, a natural sweetener that has antibacterial properties.

Parent should also be aware of drinks typically perceived as tooth-friendly, like milk.

"It is true that milk is an extremely nutrient rich beverage. It has great proteins and good carbohydrates for muscle growth; not to mention Calcium and Vitamin D for strong bone development. It does, however, usually contain between 12-14 grams per 8 ounce serving," says Dr. George. "Given its thick consistency and apparent sugar content, milk can be a major attractant to cavity-causing bacteria if left on the teeth for hours. This is why we never recommend putting infants to bed with milk or juice. Teeth should at least be wiped clean before a long sleeping period. If older children have a glass of milk before bedtime, it must be followed by brushing so as to remove the sticky, sugary coating that milk leaves behind."

Another tip, Dr. George has for parents, is not to forget flossing. "Parents think I am crazy when I tell them that their child should start flossing. However, it is usually recommended to start flossing when the primary (baby) teeth are fully in (around 2 ½ years). This is when the molars start to really touch in the back and child's food intake increases. Many children have adequate spacing and floss is not needed but if no space is present flossing at least twice a week is great! "Flossers or Floss-sticks" are the way to go. They not only have ones that are kid-themed; but they also are ergonomically-shaped to make flossing easier for parents and child a-like."

At my house, we've started using a two-minute egg timer to help make sure our kids are brushing long enough. We've let them pick out their own children's motorized toothbrushes, anything to try to make good oral hygiene fun and try to avoid the dreaded cavities.

Happy parenting! Cecily

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