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How Parents Can Help Their Kids Prevent Tooth Decay

At Watts Family Dental in Overland Park, we know how hard it can be to get your kids to practice effective oral hygiene. But helping your children establish lifelong dental-care habits to prevent tooth decay is very important to their long-term oral and general health!

One way to begin helping your child understand why dental hygiene is so important can be proper education. Likely, your child will hear about tooth decay and cavities in his or her school, but there’s no substitute for taking a proactive approach as a parent. Sit down with your child and explain what tooth decay really is and how it occurs. Let them know that when we eat certain foods – sugars and starches such as bread, breakfast cereal, milk (dairy and alternative), cake, or candy – food remains on the teeth, and the bacteria that live in our mouths digest these foods. This process of digestion turns starch into acid, and the acid eventually becomes plaque. Given the acidic nature of plaque, when it clings to the teeth (either on the surface or in between, which is why the whole family regularly brushes and flosses – right parents?) it can eat holes in the teeth. These holes are called cavities.

Parents can then explain why healthy eating is so important. Balanced, nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, alongside limiting carbohydrate-rich snacks like pretzels, candy, and chips, can not only make bodies healthier as a whole, but they can have a direct, positive impact on dental health as well.

Another good thing parents can do to encourage their children to care about their teeth is practice good oral hygiene with them! In this busy world of ours, “quality time” can take lots of different forms, and sometimes it’s catch as catch can. Therefore, why not make bedtime fun by making it time the whole family spends together? You and your kids can brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste (for at least two minutes) and then floss or use an interdental cleaner sold in drugstores. Then everybody can “swish” with a mouth rinse! It might not be as exciting as a trip to the movies, but it’s something you and your kids can share every night.

Finally, no one ever got a kid to care less about something by offering an incentive! Consider always carrying a gum containing Xylitol in your pocket and purse when out with your children. Chewing gum containing Xylitol has been shown to retard tooth decay, so you can safely offer gum as a reward for good behavior or making healthy choices, all the while knowing it’s doing great things for your kids’ dental health. Sneaky, sure, but when your kid gets older, you can always explain that gum-chewing is a good habit, and helps prevent tooth decay!

If you would like to make an appointment at Watts Family Dental for a dental exam, please call (913) 338-3384 or visit our Overland Park, KS dental office. You may also send an e-mail direct to at any time. Because we’re committed to healthy smiles for the whole family, our patients come to us from Overland Park, Leawood, Lenexa, and Olathe, Kansas. We’d love to see your family too!

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