“Take care of your teeth, and they’ll last a lifetime.” Sometimes, though, our habits get the best of us – and our teeth – and those habits often begin wreaking havoc long before we know they’re harmful. As parents we have the ability to pass on a bit of that wisdom early in the game, so our kids don’t suffer the same consequences we may have experienced: broken, discolored or decayed teeth. Here are the top ten things (in no particular order) your kids are doing right now that just might cost them later in life. Educate away, parents!
Using the wrong toothpaste: A mistake in this area can wear your kids’ teeth down for years. The Food And Drug Administration ranks the abrasiveness of toothpastes by using what is known as the relative/radioactive dentin abrasion scale. Anything above 100 is considered abrasive, and anything over 150, highly abrasive. Above 200 is worth avoiding for certain. Here’s a pretty comprehensive list.
Chewing on anything other than food (this includes ice!): Kids can sometimes develop the habit of chewing on pencils, pens and pen caps while bored in school. As you might imagine, this is a wonderful way to go through writing utensils, and an equally quick way to break a tooth. Offer up some sugarless gum instead. Gum with xylitol in it is a great substitute because it actually helps teeth stay healthy.
Constant snacking: Unshelled sunflower seeds are a favorite among athletes, primarily to avoid the communal draw of chewing tobacco. Despite the appeal, items like this salty, hard-shelled treat aren’t good for your kids’ teeth because they expose the mouth to pH-reducing food for hours at a time. What’s even worse is snacking on sweet or starchy foods like mints, candy, throat lozenges or pretzels. If your children love to snack, get them something that is low in sugar and starch -- like carrots, jerky or cheese.
Guzzling Fruit Juice: We know it’s hard to believe, but fruit juice packs nearly as much sugar as soda. Have them stick with water (either carbonated or flat) and if they want a little bit of flavor, some lemon or lime juice can be added sparingly for a bit of liveliness.
Drinking sports drinks instead of water for hydration: Athletes concerned about hydration and balancing the nutrient levels in their bodies can benefit from sports drinks. Most children, however, are consuming these drinks as common beverages, and more frequently than they should. Popular drinks in this category are high in acid, which literally eats away at tooth enamel, and can cause heartburn issues. Energy drinks fall into this category as well. Both aren’t good for teeth.
Enjoy He-Man, She-Woman attempts at opening packages with their teeth: Just say no.
Grind Their Teeth: Yes, children grind their teeth as well. Listen in at night to see if you’ve got a grinder, and chat with your dentist about mouthguards to protect their teeth.
Getting Pierced: Other than the fact that tongue and lip piercings can harbor bacteria that can turn to infection, those little shiny objects also beat the heck out of the inside of your child’s mouth. Piercings near the gumline wear away the gums and the enamel of the teeth nearby, and tongue piercings are often munched-on unwittingly, which can lead to chipped or broken teeth. Piercings are indeed trendy these days, and scare-tactics aren’t likely to convince anyone to avoid one. However, a frank talk about the risks is wise.
Too Cool For A Mouthguard: Mouthguards protect against the loss of teeth, damage to the jaw and even concussion. There’s really no excuse for not wearing one these days. Call your dentist today if you’ve got kids involved in organized or recreational sports that could involve an impact or fall. Both you and your child will thank us later.
Excessive Bleachers: Not gymnasium bleachers, but teeth whitening, of course. When home whitening becomes excessive to the point where gum and tooth sensitivity doesn’t subside, you should consider the opinion of your dentist. Your children will likely bring this soreness up to you, so it helps to be aware of the connection.