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What Every Toronto Parent Needs To Know About Children's Preventive Dental Care

We are incredibly lucky to have fluoridated municipal drinking water! Kids who drink it daily and have their meals prepared with it enjoy a 60-70% reduction in dental decay. It is the single best thing you can do for your child's dental health.

Avoid store-purchased plastic water bottles whenever possible. There is NO FLUORIDE in bottled water, plus refillable stainless steel bottles are healthier, less expensive in the long run, and easier to manage. Also, trace amounts of plastic can leach into the water. Brita-type (activated charcoal) water filters are OK, since they do not remove fluoride, and are effective at filtering out some impurities. Avoid reverse-osmosis filters until age 7, since they remove almost everything from water, including fluoride, and should not be used for kids until their adult tooth crowns have completed formation (about age 6-7 for all teeth except wisdom teeth, age 12). If you insist on this strategy, you MUST supplement dietary fluoride DAILY until age 7, and expect more frequent diagnostic radiographic examinations (i.e. checkup x-rays) and fillings in baby teeth.

Do not offer apple juice on a regular basis. It is as sweet as sugared soft drinks, and both will frequently promote tooth decay . The same is true with store-bought chocolate milk. Other juices are fine, but ensure that the product is labeled JUICE, not 'DRINK'. 'Drinks' usually contain added sugar, fructose, glucose, and/or corn sweeteners, and should be avoided. I recommend frozen concentrated orange juice, purchased by the case when on sale, stored in your freezer, and mixed with tap water when needed, thus economical and convenient. Milk and other dairy products are fine for teeth, gums and bones - organic is better, if accessible. Sticky sweets are also considered decay promoting, so use them at you would other treats i.e. once in a while and/or to reinforce desired behaviors, but NEVER DAILY. Advise your friends, relatives, caregivers and especially grandparents of this strategy, but do not expect full cooperation, especially on birthdays or holidays. Plan to spend a little more time brushing in the evening instead of getting upset or frustrated.

Children need to be encouraged from an early age to brush their teeth at least twice a day, morning and bedtime, to create a daily tooth care routine that will last a lifetime. Until technical efficiency is achieved, parents need to re-brush as well, especially at bedtime, when residual dental plaque will do the most damage overnight as the mouth becomes drier. I suggest 'playing dentist' when your child is already in bed, laying flat on the back, without a head pillow, to allow better visibility of the back teeth without neck or back strain by the parent. A water-moistened toothbrush can then be used to 'tickle' and 'count' each tooth, especially the inner and outer surfaces which are more often missed by kids. The toothbrush can be sweetened with a tiny drop of non-fluoride toothpaste if you need to make it taste better. To achieve 'Super-Parent' status, dental floss can also be introduced to remove plaque from between the teeth - it is tricky to do, but some kids will allow it. Fluoridated toothpaste can be offered at age 6, when kids tend to become more reliable spitters.

Don't worry about bite issues related to soothers or other oral habits until first grade. Most kids abandon these habits by then, and their effects are usually reversible without treatment.

Minimize chemical exposures whenever possible, whether they be in foods, clothing, bedding, toys, personal care products, household cleaners, lawn, garden and plant care, glues or paints. Ask about alternative strategies from your healthcare practitioner, pharmacist, and local health food store. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website is a good resource, as is World Wildlife Fund of Canada for toxins in our daily lives.

A word on toothpaste and mouthwash: the Canadian and American Dental Associations recognize, with their attached seals of approval, most of the products sold in drugstores. Be aware that the only therapeutic ingredient in many of these items is fluoride and/or disinfectants, the rest are mostly abrasives, bleaches, and other ingredients designed to enhance the brushing experience. Dental plaque is a soft, slightly sticky, starchy film that is easily removed with a length of floss and toothbrush. You may want to consult the above websites to determine whether toothpaste and /or mouthwash represent value to you and your family.

Hope this helps!

how to keep your kids teeth healthy

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