Most kids get all their baby teeth when they are toddlers, between one and three years old. By the age of three, almost all toddlers have a full set of 20 big, beautiful baby teeth; and by the time they reach kindergarten, 40 percent of children have tooth decay, according to WebMD. Today, tooth decay is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in children. Eating patterns and good oral hygiene are important factors for the development of tooth decay. You can prevent tooth decay in your child’s teeth by helping him practice good oral health while he is a toddler.
Bacteria, called plaque, constantly form on the surface of your child’s teeth and gums. When bacteria contacts sugar or starches, they produce acid in his mouth. This acid can attack his teeth for 20 minutes or longer, according to the American Dental Association.
Carbohydrates cause tooth decay, and the longer carbs stay on your toddler’s teeth, the more damage they cause. Sugars and starch are types of carbohydrates. Snack foods, such as cake, cookies and candy are high in sugary carbohydrates. Pretzels and potato chips are examples foods that contain large amounts of starchy carbohydrates. To protect your toddler’s teeth, you must reduce the time his child’s teeth are exposed to these carbs.
Offer fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of carbohydrates. Stay away from bananas and raisins, which have a high concentration of sugar. Fruits and vegetables that contain a lot of water, such as celery, melons and pears are best.
Start Dental Care Early
Take your child to a pediatric dentist near his first birthday and continue his dental care there as he grows through the toddler stage. The dentist will look for and treat any tooth decay. Signs of tooth decay in a toddler include brown or white spots, or pits on the enamel. He may apply a sealant to protect baby teeth. He will also help you fine-tune your child’s diet to reduce the risk for future tooth decay.
Rethink the Drink
Limit juice and avoid soft drinks altogether. One non-diet soft drink can contain as many as 10 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Furthermore, soft drinks have no nutritional value. While fruit juices do provide health benefits, they also contain sugar and acid. Restrict juice to one cup each day, and only with a meal. Eating food increases saliva, which rinses excess sugars and acids from your child’s mouth.
Something to Chew On
Avoid chewy, sticky foods such as peanut butter, honey, jelly beans and syrup. When your toddler has a craving for something chewy, offer her a slice of cheddar cheese, which will stimulate the production of saliva. If your toddler refuses the cheese and insists on a sticky food, have her brush her teeth after she finishes her food.
Encourage Good Dental Habits at a Young Age
Teach the brush and floss habit. Flossing can begin as soon as your toddler has two teeth that touch together. Get your toddler in the habit of flossing at least once a day and brushing after every meal. The most important time to brush is at bedtime.
This blog was submitted to The Children's Workshop by guest blogger, Randi Cork. Randi is a mom and grade school teacher who blogs about parenting, the environment and green living.