Mother taking her son to the Dentist

Unintentional Ways You’re Hurting Your Kid’s Teeth  

Teaching children about good dental habits is part of parenting. Brushing teeth twice a day is a great habit to start early, especially by the age of one. 

Did you know that there may be parts of your child’s life that could be unintentionally hurting their oral health, even if you do teach them to brush their teeth regularly? For example, it’s easy to become comfortable buying your kid’s favorite breakfast cereal or gummy snacks because they like them so much. But breakfast cereals can be high in sugar – and too many fruit snacks aren’t good for teeth. And often kids are drawn to unhealthy options because they’re marketed directly to them with special characters and fun colors.   

Even though your child may love a particular cereal – or a particular snack – it’s important to see past the marketing. The emotion of fulfilling your child’s desires and making them happy can make you override your own logic and reason.  

It’s OK to allow your child to have occasional treats – but making it a routine part of their diet can have negative long-term effects: more than 50% of first grade children have cavities in their primary teeth by first grade.  

Finding a balance between your child’s favorite snacks and what’s best for their health is your sweet spot as a parent and caregiver.   

Communicating your directions for how you want your child to be cared for to other family members, as well as school and daycare staff, can also be a challenge to maintaining your kid’s oral health. For example, it can be easy for family members that provide childcare to indulge them with treats, juice, pop or other sugary substances. Older relatives, especially, may be more comfortable serving your child foods and drinks that may be normal parts of childhood to them but are no longer seen as healthy.  

Here are some ways to reduce the harm from juice, pop or sugary foods:  

  • If you choose to serve juice or pop; serve it with a meal and don’t allow kids to sip a cup throughout the day   
  • Brush teeth about 20 to 30 minutes after a meals; if that’s not possible, rinse the mouth with water 
  • Never drink pop or juice before bedtime 
  • Aim to serve white milk over milk with chocolate or strawberry flavoring 

While telling your older relatives how to take care of your children may be challenging, approach the conversation from the perspective of your child’s long-term health. Let them know you’re following the advice of your child’s dentist and pediatrician – and that this is about keeping your child healthy and safe. While there may be generational differences of opinion, emphasize that you are the parent, and you are making the decisions that you feel are best.  

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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