Cavities and Mommy Woes: Addressing the Dental Habits and Needs of the Family

The latest report by the Philippine Dental Association states that 97% of children under six years of age, in the Philippines have some form of cavities[1]. This statistic is especially worrisome for busy moms who not only have to take care of the dental needs of the children in the family, but also those of the adults as well. With complications ranging from improper nutrition to heart ailments[2], it’s important that good dental habits are formed from infancy and retained throughout adulthood. Here are mommy-approved tips on making sure everyone in the family gets the chance to have that cavity-free smile worth framing.

Pre- teeth. While infants below six months old have no teeth yet, it’s important to clean their gums especially after they drink milk, since this can be breeding ground for bacteria. Use sterilized, moist gauze pads or wash cloths to wipe the area regularly between feedings to keep the gums healthy even before the first baby teeth erupt. Even this early, it’s important that good dental habits are established, ensuring that teeth have healthy gums once they break out.

Baby teeth.  Brushing teeth should be introduced as soon as tooth erupts in the mouth which can begin as early as six months. Caring for baby teeth is important because they affect the health of permanent teeth.

Since toddlers are introduced to soft food such as pureed fruits and vegetables at this time, it is important that they begin to understand that brushing comes right after eating meals. Toddler teeth should be brushed twice a day using a minimal amount of toothpaste. Not only does this introduce a good dental habit early on, it also helps protect their first teeth from early onset of decay.

As soon as they have the appropriate motor skills, encourage brushing by making it fun. Use the right-sized brush for their hands, topped with a pea-sized amount of special kid-friendly toothpaste. To get kids to brush for two full minutes, sing the happy birthday song or other nursery rhymes to establish good memories with brushing their teeth.

Wean toddlers out of bottles and sippy cups early as well, as liquids tend to stay in the mouth longer, which may encourage plaque to grow. Not only will it help make toddlers feel like they are big boys and girls, it will also protect their teeth in the long run.

Permanent teeth. The tooth fairy should be an optional visitor when permanent teeth start growing, usually from age six to thirteen. What’s not optional is a regular dental habit that everyone in the family should practice. Make it a habit to brush and floss at least twice daily. Visit the dentist at twice least twice a year as a family to ensure a positive association with the dental chair.

Good oral habits also extend to mommy-approved meals suitable for caring for teeth. Beyond the usual sweets and candy, limit the intake of high-processed, starchy foods such as rice and white bread. Even fruits and vegetables can contribute to cavities, especially when they are taken as juices. This is because the natural fibers that protect teeth are removed, leaving only sugar. Lastly, avoid soda and encourage drinking water instead.

Permanent teeth cannot be replaced, and once damaged by cavities, require costly repair and maintenance. Poor oral health can also result in difficulty eating and sleeping, which can impair school and work performance. In addition, cavities affect self-esteem because of the effect on outward appearances.

By creating dental habits shared by the entire family, mommies can scratch one more thing off their list of worries – cavities. Picture perfect smiles are a lifetime work in progress, with habits ingrained from childhood carried through adulthood long after they leave home and in turn, start their own families. Make your legacy one that lasts beyond the pictures. Help make generations of a cavity-free family a reality.



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