One of my favorite things about being a parenting writer is that I get to learn (and share!) about new developments that effect kids and their parents. Earlier this week I spoke with Dr. Mario Vilardi, president and publisher of Dear Doctor- Dentistry & Oral Health about the increase in dental erosion among young kids. He shared that over time, there has been a historical change in the way that kids are being fed, including what they drink. Now, more kids are drinking soft drinks, sports drinks and fruit juices. Since these liquids are more acid-based, they erode/cause the loss of tooth enamel over time. I took away some great tips to minimize/ prevent this loss of enamel thickness (some that go contrary to what we’ve been traditionally taught in regards to dental health) that I want to share with you.
1. Don’t rush to brush. Waiting for 30 to 60 minutes after sipping on a soda gives teeth time to re-harden after the acid softens surface enamel. Basically, the saliva neutralizes the effects of the acid/serves as a buffer/remineralizes the tooth surface. (This goes contrary to what I’ve always been taught – to brush immediately following meals.) Other options include eating a piece of cheese after drinking acidic drinks, because it also neutralizes the acidity of the drinks.
2. Grab a straw. If your child has a taste for juice that she just can’t shake, serve beverages with a straw. This reduces contact between these acidic beverages and teeth by allowing the acids to bypass most of the teeth.
3. Cash in on calcium. Calcium is added to many beverages to up their nutritional ante, and research has shown that the presence of calcium may reduce the erosive potential of soft drinks and that they remineralize the tooth surfaces better.
4. Explore natural alternatives. While your child is young and impressionable, take the opportunity to introduce them to beverages like milk and water. If this has proven unrealistic, limit the ingestion of acidic beverages to mealtimes because the rest of the food eaten at mealtime can neutralize the acids.
5. Only brush 2 times a day. Over-brushing can lead to other problems such as receding gums, the enamel being worn down, etc. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste should suffice.
6. Don’t eat right before bed. (No, this isn’t a diet tip.) It takes saliva about an hour to neutralize acids in your mouth, but saliva “shuts down” when you sleep. That’s why it’s best to finish your last meal/snack an hour or so before bed.
Overall, what I appreciated about Dr. Vilardi was that he was realistic. He wants parents to find balance, not to be excessive in regards to dental health. He stressed that preventive care is the best. Little things like avoiding simple sugars (sucrose/refined sugars/etc.) so that we don’t desensitize our kids’ taste buds are most helpful. (Sugar based products are a major problem because sugar converts to acid by the bacteria in our mouths – leading to tooth decay.) In any event, after the end of our talk, I was extremely grateful that there are dentists like Dr. Vilardi who focus on educating others to build good habits that lead not only to dental health, but also to overall health and well-being.
(To learn more about Dear Doctor, the nation’s leading consumer dentistry publication, please visit www.deardoctor.com.)