There are many things you can do to prevent your child from getting cavities. We have put together a list of some of the most important steps you can take to make sure your child's teeth and gums stay healthy. Can you do them all? Yes, you can!
1) Brush and floss
Brushing and flossing regularly is a great way to keep your child's teeth clean and healthy. A child under the age of 8 years needs help from an adult to do a good job. Help your child brush twice a day for two minutes – once in the morning and once before bed. Floss once a day – floss in between any teeth that touch.
2) Serve healthy foods
Choose foods that don't have sugar in them. Limit how often your child has sticky foods like cookies, candy, chips and crackers. These foods can get stuck in the grooves of your child's teeth and expose them to harmful acid that breaks down the surface of the tooth, putting your child at risk for cavities. If you're not sure if the food your child is eating has sugar in it, read the label on the back of the package. Many foods have hidden sugar in them (foods like baby formula, ketchup, and raisins), so be on the lookout.
Have your child eat healthy foods and snacks like raw fruits and vegetables, cheese, unsweetened yogurt, plain white milk, and lean protein.
3) Provide healthy drinks
Many drinks that seem healthy are actually loaded with sugar. Things like sports drinks, vitamin water, fruit juice, and flavored milk contain a lot of sugar. If you are going to serve these beverages to your child, do so at meal times only and never in between meals. Make sure bottles or sippy cups contain only water in between feeding times.
4) Choose sugar-free Xylitol gum
Chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks helps keep teeth clean by neutralizing the acids released by bacteria in plaque that is harmful and can cause cavities. The act of chewing gum plus the flavor of the gum stimulate saliva production, which helps rinse away food particles.
Gum that is sweetened with an ingredient called Xylitol is the best choice. Xylitol stops the growth of bacteria that causes cavities. If used over time, the types of bacteria in the mouth can change and fewer harmful bacteria will be left in the mouth. Check the label to see if gum contains Xylitol.
5) Serve plenty of fluoridated water and use fluoridated toothpaste
Fluoride is added to the public water supply to help protect our teeth. Fluoride is safe for you and your children. If you have public water, drinking it from the faucet is an easy and inexpensive way to offer fluoride protection for your child. If your child drinks a lot of bottled water, or if you have well water at home, she may not be getting enough fluoride. Fluoride supplements, fluoride varnish, special toothpaste that is prescribed by your dentist, and fluoride toothpaste and rinses you can buy at the store are also great ways to get fluoride.
6) Bring your child to a dentist no later than the first birthday – and once a year after that
Early visits to the dentist give you an opportunity to have a dentist perform a simple exam to make sure your child's mouth is healthy. You will have the chance to ask any questions you may have about how to care for your child's teeth and your child will get to know the staff at the dentist's office and be comfortable there.
Remember, this advice is not only good for your child - it's good for you too. Follow this advice yourself and provide a positive example for your child to follow. You are her first teacher, so make every lesson count!