Teaching children to have healthy habits when it comes to dental health is important to keeping those chompers for their entire lifetime. Dr. Whitney Garol of the Smile Shop reminds us of everyday things that are bad for kids’ teeth:
- Sugar – An obvious choice for something that is bad for children’s teeth. Especially poor choices are sticky, chewy foods (e.g. Fruit snacks, sticky candy, sticky granola bars). These items tend to get stuck in grooves of the teeth, between the teeth and can easily cause cavities over an extended amount of time without being brushed and flossed. Long exposures to sugars like juice and soda can also cause decay. These should be limited during the day and placed with a meal. (When the meal is over the juice is done.) Dried fruit is high in sugar content and also very sticky making fresh fruit is a better choice.
- Using teeth as tools – Never a good idea. Using your teeth to tear something open or remove tags from clothes could eventually lead to breaking the enamel and eventually fracturing the teeth.
- Crunchy hard objects – This includes ice, inanimate objects (pens, erasers, pencils), popcorn kernels and uncooked pasta. All of these can cause small craze lines or fracture the tooth structure.
- Grinding/clenching teeth – Although most of the time this is done subconsciously, sometimes kids do it during the day. Most of time if kids grind their teeth at night they do outgrow the habit. If kids are clenching their teeth tightly together try to remind them to always keep their teeth apart unless while eating. Discussing with kids about not making the “squeaky” noise with teeth is an easy way to explain to kids that it’s not a good idea to grind and can hurt our teeth.
- Brushing teeth too hard – Using a soft bristle toothbrush in small circles is best with enough pressure to massage the gum tissue while also brushing the teeth. Some mechanical toothbrushes will indicate if pressure is too hard. Brushing too hard can cause gum recession.
- Chewing gum – Although chewing gum can help with breath and stimulate salivary flow, the repetitive movement of the jaw up and down can tire muscles out causing Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction. TMJ dysfunction leads to pain, popping and clicking in the jaw. Try a sugar-free mint instead for fresh breath and to stimulate saliva.
- Nail biting – Similar to chewing on inanimate objects. Over time nail biting can cause breakdown in enamel or worse fracturing teeth leading to restorations or crowns.
- Acidic drinks – Soda, other carbonated drinks and acidic sweet drinks (e.g. Lemonade) although can be very sugary as well are also very acidic. Acid can break down tooth enamel which does not grow back and will eventually need restorations or cause tooth sensitivity. Sucking on lemons falls under the same category and should be avoided due to the acidic nature of the fruit.
- Toothpicks – Although most people think it is handy to remove food stuck between the teeth, it can damage gum tissue if not used properly. Gum recession can be a big problem stemming from consistently poking in between the teeth.
- Bedtime bottles – The last thing before bed should be brushing teeth. Nothing to eat or drink after, except water if a child needs a drink. If bottles with formula, milk, breast milk, or juice are taken to bed this can cause tooth decay.
As always, if you have questions, reach out to your pediatric dentist for more information.