Kids who hear “Good news! No cavities!” have many things in common when it comes to their oral health habits. If you’re looking to level up your kids’ oral health so you hear this more often, we’ve got some tips on how to prevent cavities and help your kids strengthen their teeth. After all, at The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry we’re all about preventative oral care for your kids!
But does getting into a good cavity prevention groove at home sound daunting? We know that kids are kids, and taking steps towards healthy teeth isn’t always their number one favorite activity. But with the 8 simple habits we share below, your kids will be well on their way to being cavity-free.
1. Brushing and flossing regularly
We know that kids don’t always jump to brushing and flossing with over-the-top enthusiasm. So what can parents do to encourage their kids to brush and floss regularly for healthy teeth? It’s an important habit for staying cavity-free — when it comes to how to prevent cavities, brushing and flossing is the first line of defense.
Before we answer that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about how often kids (and adults!) should brush and floss. Dentist Dr. Kristi Parker, along with orthodontist Dr. Bryn Vaughan Cooper, recommends brushing at least twice a day and flossing once. Brush in the morning and before bed, adding flossing to the evening routine. And remember to brush for two minutes to make sure every tooth is thoroughly brushed.
For younger kids, a great way to get them enjoying brush and floss time is letting them pick out their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. At any given drugstore or supermarket with an oral hygiene section, you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly options. In our experience, children feel a greater sense of ownership over their oral care routine using tools they like. Plus, they’ll have more fun as they stop cavities in their tracks.
Kid toothbrushes come in every imaginable color and many feature favorite cartoon characters. Kid-sized toothbrushes also come in different sizes to help with comfort and getting the best clean, ranging from smaller heads for toddler mouths to larger sizes for elementary school-aged kids. Some toothbrushes light up for two minutes to count down brushing time. Others come with suction cups so your child can stick their toothbrush to the bathroom mirror.
Just remember that whichever toothbrush your child picks, it should have soft bristles. Kids tend to brush hard, so soft bristles will clean well without being rough on gums and tooth enamel.
Now you might be wondering about electric toothbrushes for kids. Do they do better at preventing tooth decay in children? Simply put, yes, they can. In fact, an 11-year study showed that using an electric toothbrush resulted in 18% less tooth decay than using a manual one. And for kids, an electric toothbrush can make brushing teeth easier, more efficient, and definitely more fun.
Flossing for kids
Did you know that flossing before brushing has been shown as more effective than the other way around? So if your child has been flossing after they brush (or not flossing at all) now’s a good time to turn it around.
We get it. Flossing, especially for small kids, can be difficult to figure out. Fortunately, you’ll find a few flossing tools designed to help kids stop those in-between cavities with minimal dexterity. Look for kids’ floss picks: short lengths of fruity-flavored floss on brightly-colored plastic handles. To floss with a floss pick, your child simply holds the handle and maneuvers the floss in between their teeth. No need to wind floss around their fingers. And just like their chosen toothbrush, your child can choose the floss picks that appeal to them.
Pro tip for motivating kids to brush and floss regularly? Set up a reward chart with stickers towards earning a prize, or use a kids’ tooth brushing app to track their teeth brushing. Or try playing their favorite song and brush along to it for at least two minutes.
2. Using fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities in kids
We’re giving toothpaste its own section so we can highlight how important it is to choose the right toothpaste. “What’s the best toothpaste to prevent cavities?” you ask. Even more important than finding the right flavor is using a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Why? Simply put, fluoride helps strengthen teeth. It supports tooth enamel so it can better resist the acids that can damage teeth and allow cavities to form. We’ve got a few more tips about fluoride toothpaste for your kids here.
If your older child has been extra prone to cavities, ask The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry team about a high fluoride toothpaste available through prescription. Prescription toothpaste has a higher fluoride concentration than over-the-counter toothpaste and adds a helpful layer of cavity prevention when used daily. But it’s not typically for the really wee ones, and make sure your pets don’t get into it!
3. Limiting snacking
Kids and snacks go hand in hand. So it can be hard to find a balance between making sure your kids have enough fuel throughout the day and giving their teeth a chance to recover. Recover? You see, constant eating means your oral environment is more often acidic than not, and an acidic environment makes your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.
When you eat, the oral bacteria in your mouth start eating away at the sugars from your food. Acids develop as the bacteria breaks down the sugars, weakening tooth enamel. Softer, weakened enamel isn’t a strong defense against the tooth decay that can turn into cavities.
We at The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry recommend starting a habit of limiting snacking so kids’ teeth get breaks of at least two hours between eating. This gives saliva time to work its magic and bring the mouth back to a non-acidic, teeth-friendly pH level.
4. Eating a teeth-happy diet
Speaking of food, we have to mention that learning how to prevent cavities in kids includes learning how to eat a teeth-happy diet. Stop cavities before they start by encouraging a nutritious diet full of vitamins and minerals that build strong teeth and gums. The biggies to keep in mind? Calcium, vitamin D, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Calcium: You might’ve guessed this one right off the bat. Calcium is key for strong tooth enamel, as well as bones and teeth. Foods with calcium include: dairy products like milk and cheese (and their dairy-free alternatives), leafy green veggies, soybeans, and oranges.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is calcium’s best friend because it helps with calcium absorption. On its own, vitamin D builds bone density which makes for strong teeth and aids in your kids’ cavity protection. Your kids can get a daily dose of vitamin D from 15 minutes of sunshine, eating eggs, meat or fish, or fortified foods like bread and cereal.
Potassium: Just like vitamin D, potassium improves bone density. But it also acts as a defense: when working with magnesium, potassium prevents blood from becoming too acidic, a state which can cause calcium to leach from bones and teeth. Potassium is also key in blood clotting and helping gum tissue heal faster. What can your child eat that’s got potassium? Bananas! As well as dark leafy greens, potatoes, avocadoes, and dairy products.
Vitamins C: Vitamin C is great for keeping your child’s gums and soft oral tissue healthy. Strong connective tissue in your kids’ gums anchors their teeth firmly in place, helping prevent gingivitis and gum disease. Best foods for vitamin C? You most likely already knew that Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits, but it’s also found in leafy greens, berries, and peppers. Pretty much any deeply-colored fruit or veggie will do.
Vitamin A: You might’ve heard that vitamin A is good for the eyes, but did you know it’s also good if you want to look after your kids’ oral health? Vitamin A is known for contributing to a healthy level of saliva in your mouth. As we mentioned earlier, you need saliva to move from an acidic, enamel-weakening oral pH level to a more teeth-happy neutral or alkaline level. Vitamin A is found in leafy green veggies, fish, egg yolks, and orange foods like carrots, oranges, cantaloupes, and sweet potatoes.
5. Drinking plenty of water
We’ve talked about food, now let’s talk about water. Water is essential for your kid’s entire day-to-day functioning including their oral health. Water makes up 99% of saliva so it makes sense that your child needs lots of water to ensure plenty of saliva. Not enough saliva can lead to dry mouth, a condition that can cause bad breath or make it hard for your little one to chew and swallow food properly.
Drinking water also rinses out food debris and plaque on teeth that, if left behind, are big contributors to tooth decay in children. We suggest always swishing or drinking some water after eating or drinking. And bonus, water often contains fluoride, strengthening tooth enamel and helping your kids build healthy teeth.
6. Waiting 30 minutes to an hour after eating or drinking anything acidic before brushing
This is a teeth-friendly habit that’s not well known. Why is it a helpful habit in cavity prevention? After your child’s eaten or drank anything acidic, their teeth are temporarily weakened from the acidity. So brushing right away can actually damage the enamel. Your child’s tooth enamel needs time to remineralize, harden, and build itself back up.
7. Seeing the dentist regularly
At The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry, we focus on preventative oral care that sets your child up for a lifetime of great oral health. A big part of that is ensuring your kid comes in for regular check-ups and cleanings twice a year. At these appointments, we can assess your child’s dental development, their oral health, and provide any tips and tricks for better cavity prevention at home. And, of course, we can catch any teeth issues that need attention before they get worse.
8. Getting dental sealants
When your child comes in to see us, we might offer dental sealants to help protect their teeth against cavities. What do dental sealants do? They supplement your at-home care by providing a physical barrier for preventing tooth decay in your children’s teeth. Dental sealants are quick and painless — we paint the solution on each tooth with a tiny paintbrush and it almost instantly bonds to your child’s tooth.
Helping Kids in Missouri City, TX, Maintain Healthy Teeth
The team at The Beach House Pediatric Dentistry is here to help kids in Missouri City, Sugar Land, Pearland, and Houston, TX grow healthy, beautiful smiles. We offer a warm and caring environment and expert pediatric dental and orthodontic care for young ones from infants to teens.
Contact us today to schedule your first visit.