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The other day at my routine checkup, my dentist pointed out how I must have been sick as a child. I was a little surprised, so he immediately pulled up a photo to show me the spots and lines that had been caused by childhood illness and antibiotics use. As it turns out, there are a number of common things that can damage kids' teeth, but luckily, most of them are completely avoidable.
Here are some suggestions to help
you take better care of your kid's teeth.
1. Be Careful with Fevers
ever noticed that someone's teeth seem to have a white line going straight
across them, it's likely because they had a high fever or an acute infection
when they were younger. Dr. Campbell, of Peak Family Dentistry and Orthodontics, points out that the
etiology of hypomineralization of the enamel is not fully understood and that
there are many studies going on, but some common factors believed to influence
it are fever, the use of certain antibiotics (such as amoxicillin, tetracycline and doxycycline taken before the age of 8) during formations stages or having chicken pox between ages 3 and 4.
children get sick, the theory goes, the body to redirect its resources to fighting
the infection, meaning that the enamel temporarily stops forming. While some
parents advocate letting kids run a fever as a natural cure, doing so can affect
their teeth, so it might be worth reaching for the fever reducer if it goes on
for more than a few hours, especially if the child has other factors that might
affect their dental development, such as having been born preterm, poor health, systemic conditions, celiac disease,
cystic fibrosis or low birth weight.
also points out that there has been a spike in orthodontistry and breathing
conditions related to poor eating habits. Many parents are serving their kids
softer foods, either because the child prefers them or because they are afraid
of choking, but this causes the mouth and teeth to develop in a different way.
Children need to chew and push food up against the top of their mouth for the
upper palate to form properly, and not doing so can lead to other health problems.
and amoxicillin—have both been linked to fluorosis, where the tooth develops
with spots and white flecks on them, as well as pits which may make the tooth
more susceptible to decay. Other medications can also cause enamel hypoplasia,
where the enamel is fully formed, but thin and easily damaged.
4. Stop Giving a Bottle Before Bed (Unless You Brush After)
Prolonged exposure to milk or
juice in the mouth can also lead to tooth decay, as the sugars turn acidic when
bacteria consume them. As much as it's comforting to give baby a final drink
before dozing off, this can start eating away at delicate enamel (which may
already be impacted by antibiotics) and end up doing long-term damage.
5. Limit Juice During the Day
Yes, juice. While kids love the
taste and parents love the vitamins, the combination of acids (all vitamin C is
acidic) and sugars delivers a double whammy that is as bad as drinking soda. It
contains sugar and acids, and the sugar actually increases the acidity of the
mouth, making teeth more vulnerable to cavities.
lot of parents try to make up for the juice habit by brushing straight away,
but that can make matters worse. According to one dentist, the enamel remains
soft for an hour after drinking juice. Dr. Campbell suggests only serving juice
during meals (if at all) and only giving them water the rest of the time.
Plaque takes 12 hours to harden, so brushing twice a day is enough, but it's also critical you do so from an early age.
6. Steer Clear of Painkillers
While there's no direct link to
non-opioid painkillers and dental problems, most children's medications are
loaded with sugar, so it is an absolute must to brush afterwards and to limit
exposure as much as possible. If you trust in homeopathic products, I found
that camillia worked almost as well for teething as Advil did. On bad days, we double up the dose and my little one was back to his chipper self within 20 minutes.
7. Make Sure They Eat Leafy Greens
We've always thought that milk is
great for teeth, but healthy smiles also need sufficient vitamin C, D and K,
all of which help with tooth formation and reduce gingival swelling,
discoloration, and help keep gums happy and healthy.
8. Establish Good Brushing and Flossing Habits
Plaque takes 12 hours to harden,
so brushing twice a day is enough, but it's also critical you do so from an
early age. Dr. Campbell pointed out that decay in milk teeth can travel up into
the gums and harm the adult tooth that is forming underneath.
surprised me is that he also recommends flossing toddler teeth that touch.
Toddler teeth tend to be very straight on the side (as opposed to adult teeth,
which have a little gap) which makes those areas the perfect breeding ground
for decay. Contacting teeth
should be flossed until the age of six, and after that, all teeth should be
the topic of whether to brush with or without fluoridated toothpaste, Dr.
Campbell points out that while it's recommended that children do, they also aren't
supposed to use it until they can spit, which usually happens closer to 2 years,
or if the parent is wiping the toothpaste off with their finger. He pointed out
that in most urban areas, the fluorine in the water will be sufficient if the
child is drinking tap water. In rural areas, however, he recommends
investigating the water first, because the levels are often unregulated and
excess fluorine can lead to hyperfluroris, or excessive white spots on the teeth.
Undiscovered allergies, improper
burping and digestive problems, can all damage enamel in the long run. If
your kid avoids food, spits up a lot or seems uncomfortable laying down, you'll
want to investigate this and get her treated, as long-term exposure can erode
the enamel on the back teeth.
10. Avoid Dry Air
The connection there is not
obvious, but having dry mouth greatly increases the chance for cavities in both
adults and kids. If your tot has the sniffles, he may start breathing through
his mouth at night. Be sure to use a humidifier whenever it's dry, and crank if
up higher if your kid is sick and taking sugary medicines.