Providing oral health education to families is essential to teaching children healthy habits and preventing early childhood tooth decay.
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Children whose parents are prone to cavities and tooth decay need to be extra careful. "We know there's a genetic predisposition to tooth decay," says Dr. Soxman. Children at high risk for cavities should be discouraged from eating starchy snacks such as crackers and chips. In fact, one good way to determine if a snack is good for a child is to check their teeth 20 minutes after consumption. If the teeth are still filled with food, the snack should be discontinued.
"Regardless of what food is eaten, regular efforts have to be made to clean the teeth before decay can begin," says Academy of General Dentistry past president Tom Howley, DDS, MAGD. "This means things like brushing, flossing, rinsing after snacks and using non-sugary beverages in bottles or sippy cups.
"It is always good to schedule routine dental checkups and to limit your child's intake of sugary foods," says Dr. Soxman.
"Essentially all children are at risk for cavities to some extent or another," says Dr. Howley. "So the same basic principles apply – control of exposure of cavity-inducing food and thorough cleaning of the teeth. Even if decay is a low risk for an individual child, they can still develop gingivitis or other problems if home care is inadequate."
Reviewed: January 2012
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