Weak teeth are the bane of my existence. I’ve always been committed to brushing and flossing with a dedication that borders on obsession. I still get cavities. Dentists have told me that it’s genetic and there isn’t much I can do that I’m not already doing. I look on the bright side and am thankful that my teeth at least look good but it’s frustrating. No one enjoys visiting the dentist for more than a cleaning and sometimes I feel like a VIP.
As a mother I want to do everything in my power to help my children avoid the same fate. Traditionally dentists advised parents to wait until their children were three years old for their first dental visit. Things have changed due to an increase in cavities in preschool aged kids. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children begin seeing a dentist around their first birthday. My kids began their visits at one years old and have kept regular appointments every six months.
Visiting the dentist regularly is only part of the equation. After my son developed a cavity I went on a quest to arm myself with as much information about oral health as I could. After changing a few of our habits and tools we’ve made great progress. The dentist applauded our efforts during our last visit. Here are some of the tools I use to keep my kids teeth healthy.
Natural Bristle Toothbrushes
I brush my kids teeth anytime and anywhere. Sometimes I get weird looks and other times I get lots of questions especially about the toothbrushes I use. I prefer natural bristle brushes over their synthetic counterparts because they seem to loosen food in my kids’ teeth more quickly. I don’t have to scrub as hard and risk getting my finger chomped off by a weary toddler. The brushes last longer and are gentler on tooth enamel and gums. I brush my kids’ teeth after each meal which. That’s a lot of brushing. Natural bristle toothbrushes are effective and safe to use frequently.
Xylitol is sugar alcohol that is extracted from from plants (including the birch tree) that is said to improve dental health. It is an all natural ingredient that can be found in many sugar free gums. Xylitol has been deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug administration and has proven effective in reducing tooth decay in a variety of studies.
I use fluoride toothpaste twice a day as recommended and use Xylitol toothpaste in between. My kids are little and not that great at spitting out the fluoride toothpaste so it’s great having a trusted all natural alternative to supplement the brushing with. I don’t have to worry about the kids swallowing unsafe amounts of fluoride or compromise on protecting their teeth.
It sounds ridiculous but before my son got his first cavity I didn’t think much about the impact our diets have on our oral health. Of course I knew to avoid too much candy and desserts but I hadn’t thought about the large amount of sugar in the small quantity of juice I gave my kids each day. They used to love snacking on dried and naturally sweetened fruit but it wreaked havoc on their teeth.
After doing some research and conversing with our pediatric dentist we eliminated all juice, dried fruit, and other seemingly healthy foods that were loaded with sugar like granola bars. Juice is a rare treat for the kids. I let them enjoy a cup or two at playgroup but brush their teeth soon after. I increased the variety of fresh fruit the kids eat. I stopped giving my daughter store bought and pre packaged yogurt. Instead I mash fresh strawberries and mix in with no sugar added organic and local whole milk yogurt. She loves it and the only sugar in it is from the milk or strawberries.
Small changes make a big difference. Kids are adaptable if you’re creative and patient with them. My son doesn’t like yogurt but he likes hard cheeses and those are also great for kids teeth. Experiment and see what works for you and your family. Some may think my husband and I go overboard when they see us brushing our kids’ teeth in the Chuck E. Cheese bathroom, but personally I’d like to avoid listening to my children scream at the dentist. I want to instill good oral hygiene habits in them while they're young since they have a predisposition to weak teeth. It’s worth it and hopefully saves on dental bills later on.
How do you care for your little ones teeth?
Veronica Armstrong is a photographer, blogger, and freelance writer whose stories spring from the cinderblock walls of her married graduate student apartment. You can find her on Google+ or see more of her writing and photography on her blog.