We love it when our child has our eyes or our partner’s dimples. But children can also inherit our not-so-good traits such as dental caries, AKA cavities. Contributing factors to childhood cavities include habits like how and when kids eat, to a parent’s own personal fear of the dentist. But the pattern and habits can end with some changes in your own behaviors, replacing them with good examples of healthy living for your kids. Read on for some of the ways you can end the pattern of cavities in your family.
Parents with fear of the dentist have children with untreated cavities.
Parents with anxiety or fear of the dentist are more likely to have kids with cavities. Kids with untreated cavities can experience lifelong effects, so it’s important to work toward overcoming your fear and instill the same confidence in your kids for their dental visits. Dental anxiety is not uncommon, but it has many consequences. It negatively impacts more than just your dental health. Parents with a fear of the dentist are more likely to have kids with untreated cavities, along with leaving their own fear of the dentist untreated. If fear of the dentist keeps you away from regular cleanings, review our resources for overcoming it! Overcoming your fear of the dentist, or simply not passing down this fear to your kids, will put them on a path of less cavities as they age.
Cavities passed on to kids by sharing and even kissing
Did you know that cavities are potentially contagious? That’s right. Cavities can be passed from parents to their children through simple bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria can be passed to children from their parents or guardians through sharing items like toothbrushes or food utensils, sneezing, or even (gasp) kissing your kids. It’s important to know that it’s not necessarily the food or sugar we eat that cause cavities. It’s the bacteria in our mouth that feed on these foods that causes plaque to form, which in-turn causes cavities to form. Kids don’t have the immunity built up in their mouths to fight these bacteria. This is how the bacteria can easily be transmitted from parent to kids. Here are some tips to avoid passing these bacteria on from our mouths to our kids’ mouths:
- Never “wash” a pacifier or other kids toys they put in their mouth by licking or putting them in your mouth first.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Don’t taste your kid’s food with their utensils.
- Don’t share pieces of food.
- Brush and floss your teeth and practice good oral health habits.
Cavities can also come from bad habits and behaviors from parents
As a parent, your eating choices will likely be passed on to your kids. What and when you feed your kids, along with other influences inside your home, will all contribute greatly to whether your children will develop cavities. Dental caries, or cavities, occur when damage from decay creates a hole in the tooth. Tooth decay happens when plaque and bacteria get the opportunity to eat away teeth. The types of food and drink you offer your kids will have a big impact on the development of cavities. It’s always good to reassess your food choices, behaviors at home, and even your feeding schedule
Other parental and family habits that can influence children’s development of cavities:
- Parental smoking.
- Siblings with cavities.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends avoiding the following feeding activities and schedule as they are cavity-promoting behaviors:
- Providing juice between meals at two years of age or older.
- Putting babies to sleep with milk from the bottle at bedtime.
- Letting kids drink soda or any liquids with fermentable carbohydrates.*
- Continuing to bottle feed after 12–14 months of age.
- Between-meal snacks that contain high amounts of sugar.
*Fermentable carbohydrates are in anything sweetened with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or another sugar variant. Fermentable carbohydrates are worse for your mouth than regular carbohydrates because they break down into simple sugars in the mouth, rather than the digestive tract.
Help your child prevent cavities with regular brushing and flossing
Good brushing and flossing habits can start early in your child’s life. Starting early in life and having a consistent daily routine are two important factors that you as a parent can pass on to your kids that can help prevent cavities. Getting kids to brush properly and consistently can be a challenge.
Ensure you and your family are fighting cavities daily with these tips to get kids brushing and flossing:
- Make sure everyone has a toothbrush that fits easily in hand and in mouth.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, which is important for preventing tooth decay.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
- Move the brush in a gentle, circular motion, not back and forth.
- Pay attention to all tooth surfaces, the gum line, and the tongue.
- Brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Store your toothbrush upright in a dry, temperate place.
- Use string floss, a floss pick, or a water pick after brushing. Brushing only removes about 60% of cavity-causing bacteria from the mouth.
- Glide the floss along the sides of each tooth. Avoid pushing the floss directly into the gums.
- Remember to floss your back teeth!
Visit the dentist regularly
If you and your child haven’t seen the dentist in the past six months, it’s critical to both overall and oral health to make an appointment today. The earlier a child visits the dentists, the better. Children should see the dentist by the age of 1 or soon after their first tooth appears. Regular visits to the dentist will not only help ensure good oral health and less likelihood of cavities but will also help in alleviating fear of the dentist as your child ages. Good oral health habits at home will provide a solid foundation in preventing cavities in your kids, but that alone will not give you best opportunity in avoiding cavities. Regular visits to the dentists are probably your best line of defense in preventing cavities in yourself and in your kids.
Cavities are nearly 100% preventable with good habits at home; proper food choices and nutrition, consistent daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental visits will put you and your kids on a cavity-free path to the healthiest smile.
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