By Richard Mungo, DDS , Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County
With a new school year starting, how can parents support healthy dental habits while still allowing their kids to savor some of their snack favorites? The answer is in the bag. The brown lunch bag, that is.
At Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County, one of the largest nonprofit dental health providers for children, by the end of the summer and the beginning of the school year we see an increase in cavities among our patients and a decrease in the practice of healthy dental habits.
The good news is that parents can prevent the dangers of dental decay by selecting lunch choices that promote good dental hygiene and by teaching children how to make wise food choices on their own – two lessons that add up to healthy teeth and gums all year long.
What’s in Your Lunch?
Let’s start with foods that children should avoid completely or eat in extreme moderation. For many parents, memories of school lunch fare include making a meal out of French fries and cheese, or trading their lunches for candy and other sweets.
Sugary or starchy foods stimulate the formation of bacteria in the mouth, which causes cavities. These stubborn, sticky foods also erode tooth enamel, creating a prime environment for tooth decay. It’s time we replace these memories with
healthier alternatives for this generation of children.
And Don’t Forget the Basics
Dental-loving lunches can only go so far in promoting positive oral health. Children can’t slack on the basics of dental hygiene during the school year. This includes brushing their teeth at least twice a day for two minutes and flossing. Reaching milestones during the school year, such as earning a good grade, might be a fun time to give your child a new toothbrush, as toothbrushes wear out every three to four months.
One last tip for parents: The school year always is jammed-packed with activities, so book your child’s appointment now for a dental checkup, which should occur every six months. M