Preventing Tooth Decay in Children: Less Sugar, More Fluoride

Different unhealthy liquids and foods can harm a child’s dental hygiene. Despite increased dental visits, nearly half of Unites States children experience cavities.

Key takeaways:
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    A new study highlights key factors in improving a child’s dental health through increased fluoride consumption and healthy eating habits.
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    Dental caries are currently affecting a majority of children and adolescents in the U.S.
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    Increased fluoride, a healthy diet, and early-child dental care are key to preventing dental caries in children.

Dental clinics are now more available than ever, yet dental caries is the most common disease during childhood.

The study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) aims to help pediatricians assist in dental hygiene. In many cases, the pediatrician is more frequently visited by the child's dentist — giving the pediatrician the opportunity to improve the child’s dental health.

David M. Krol, MD, MPH, FAAP, is the main offer of the study and highlights the investigation for providing suitable advice to preventing tooth decay in children in a conversation with AAP.

“Pediatricians can help parents learn to prevent tooth decay in their children from the time they are infants, even before the first tiny teeth emerge,” Krol said. “Families can instill good habits early by never putting a child to bed with a bottle, avoiding sugary drinks, and serving as role models by brushing and flossing regularly.”

More than half of children develop cavities

Tooth decay is the most frequently occurring disease during childhood in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than half of children between the ages of 6 and 8 have acquired at least one cavity in their baby teeth. The number is the same with pre-teens and teenagers, with more than 50% having at least one cavity in their permanent teeth.

Children whose parents or siblings had cavities are more likely to obtain them. Also, sugary drinks including sodas and juices can increase the likelihood of cavities. Children wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances are at an increased risk for cavities.

Research from the AAP and data from the CDC both highlight dental health discrepancies among certain social classes. Many low-income families are more likely to purchase products that are not as nutritious for a child’s dental health, as opposed to high-income families. Low-income children between the ages of 5 and 19 are two times as likely to receive a cavity versus a high-income child.

Preventing tooth decay in children

Flouride is a mineral that occurs naturally. Rocks containing fluoride release it into the soil, water, and air. A majority of water contains water, however, it is not as prevalent in bottled water compared to tap water. The CDC provides a resource so U.S. citizens can learn if their tap water contains fluoride.

The optimal amount of fluoride is .7 mg/L, however, if your area water system does not contain the appropriate amount of fluoride there are other available options. It is important to remember that too much fluoride can lead to dental fluorosis — a condition affecting the appearance of tooth enamel.

The AAP study fluoride tubes of toothpaste and mouth rinse to be extremely effective in combating tooth decay. Also, highly-concentrated fluoride referred to as fluoride varnish can be applied two or four times per year in baby or permanent teeth.

Leading by example with dental hygiene is another way to get a child on the right track. Regular brushing and flossing should be a part of a child’s dental hygiene. The AAP encourages parents or guardians to oversee brushing until the child reaches around 10 years old — this may differ based on the child’s maturity.

Reducing sugar consumption in food and drink can massively reduce the chances of cavities. AAP’s research tells pediatricians to encourage fluoride tap water in between meals versus juice. No juice is encouraged for children under 1-year-old. Juice consumption for one through 3 years old should range from around four ounces per day, and up to six ounces for children as old as 6 years.

The investigation says babies should not go to bed with a bottle before sleep or naptime. If a bottle is used, only feature water. The AAP recommends breastfeeding as the only nutrient for nearly six months, following that period four to six ounces of water are recommended per day.

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