Natural Oral Hygiene for Kids

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As you observe your wee ones sprouting those pristine new teeth, you realize that they have a clean slate. Ideally, all kids would develop and maintain strong, healthy pearly whites for life. And yet, tooth decayin the form of dental cavities and gum diseaseaffects more than 25% of American children from 2–5 yrs. and 50% of those from 12–15 yrs.

Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that coat the teeth with plaque. If plaque is not removed, these bacteria break down the sugars and starches in food to produce acids which in turn eat away at tooth enamel. If left unattended, the plaque then solidifies into tartar, which can lead to gum disease and gingivitis.

Clearly, good oral health is essential to overall wellness. So, how can you ensure from the very start that your children learn how to protect this vital asset? The key is gentle, consistent brushing and flossingideally after every meal and snack. For babies, wipe gums with cloth, gauze or baby dental wipes, which are available free of saccharin and fluoride. Kids should learn to brush after consuming anything sweet.

A healthy, calcium-rich diet is another oral-health ally, providing the nutrients essential for building strong teeth and resilient gums. Your child’s meals should also include phosphorus from fish and eggs, magnesium from whole grains, dark leafy greens, and bananas, and vitamin A and beta carotene from orange pigmented produce.

What foods pose a threat to healthy teeth? Well, along with the obvious candy, cookies, and sodas, dried fruit is a sticky, concentrated sugar source that adheres to tooth enamel. Conversely, fresh fruit is helpful because chewing stimulates the gums and promotes saliva flow, which decreases mouth acidity. And though you may not consider bread among the usual suspects, when starches mix with amylasean enzyme in salivathe result is highly acidic and can erode enamel and promote tooth decay.

As for toothpaste, select with care, as many contain additives that are best avoided. Good natural alternativeswith or without fluorideinclude Toms of Maine, Weleda, Burt’s Bees, and Kiss My Face, among other brands. With heightened awareness, you can help ensure your tots have happy, healthy smilesfor life.

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