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10 Tips to Keep Your Kid's Teeth Healthy

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recently released its first-ever "State of Little Teeth Report" and is launching the Monster-Free Mouths Movement to encourage good oral health in kids. Plus, 10 oral health and tooth brushing tips to keep your kid's smile healthy.

little boy brushing teethThe American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s first-ever “State of Little Teeth Report” underscores the significant threat that tooth decay has to the health, welfare and future of children in the U.S. And while studies show that delaying the first dental exam until the age of 2 or 3 can have an adverse impact on a child’s oral health, the “State of Little Teeth Report” reveals that 40 percent of parents and caregivers surveyed wait to take their child to the dentist until after age 2. To address this nation-wide threat to children’s health, the AAPD is launching the Monster-Free Mouths Movement, an educational campaign to arm parents and caregivers with important tools and information to help fight tooth decay, also known as the Mouth Monsters.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is the number one chronic infectious disease among children in the U.S., posing an immediate and long-term threat to the teeth of young children and to their overall health and development.

1. Why should your kid brush his teeth? Because tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease—four times more common than early childhood obesity, five times more common than asthma, and 20 times more common than diabetes, according to the Surgeon General. Oh, and because you said so.

2. Did you know that your dentist may be helpful in diagnosing a sleep problem? While nighttime teeth grinding, known as bruxism, can have many causes (or no clear cause at all), 1 in 4 people with obstructive sleep apnea are bruxers. “Bruxism is the number-one reason patients come to my clinic, even though they’re not aware they’re grinding,” says Michael Gelb, D.D.S., M.S., an innovator in sleep apnea, TMJ disorders, and other head and neck pain disorders at The Gelb Center, with offices in Manhattan and White Plains. Ask your dentist if you think anyone in your family may be grinding their teeth, as it may be a sign of a more serious health issue.

3. Fluoride not only helps prevent tooth decay, it cures beginning cavities, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

4. Babies can “catch” cavities from their caregivers. In 71 percent of the cases, the mother is the source. Research indicates that the cavity-causing bacteria known as Streptococcus mutans can be transmitted from mothers to infants even before teeth erupt. The better the mother’s oral health, the less chance the baby will have problems.

5. A child’s first visit to the dentist (mostly educational) should be around her first birthday.

6. Acids present in carbonated beverages can erode tooth enamel more than acids produced by bacteria from the sugars present in sweetened drinks.

7. If you want to protect the orthodontic investment you’ve made in your child’s smile, once braces have come off “wear your retainer always, because teeth relapse. They’re going to want to go back to how they were before the braces, and they will slowly creep back,” says Jonathan Mender, D.D.S., of Madison Dental Group in NYC

8. “Refrain from using fluoridated toothpaste until a child is able to rinse thoroughly on her own and not swallow,” suggests Suho Lee, D.D.S., of Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dentistry in Ridgefield, CT. Too much fluoride consumption can be harmful.

9. Children older than 6 months may need a fluoride supplement if their drinking water does not contain the ideal amount. Fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay by as much as 50 to 70 percent.

10. Two minutes: that’s the ideal amount of time dentists recommend brushing teeth for optimum results. Firefly’s Light-Up Timer toothbrushes, pictured below, flash for exactly one minute, so kids can press a button to activate once for top teeth and once for bottom ($3.49;

 firefly light up toothbrushes


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