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Teach your kids good dental hygiene

red toothbrush on blue background

If you are worried about your kids’ dental hygiene, you probably should be. According to statistics, cavity rates are increasing among six- to 12-year-olds. In fact, 63 percent of kids in this age group have had a cavity, and more than 60 percent have had two or more.

“We’re seeing increases of epidemic proportions worldwide – tooth decay is the number one chronic disease for kids five to 17; it’s five times more chronic than asthma,” says Lisa Shoemaker, a registered restorative dental hygienist and educator in Toronto.

“Families are busy and they have busy routines – routines that don’t often include supervising kids when they clean their teeth,” says Lisa. In addition, kids tend to eat on the go and snack on foods with refined sugars, such as juice boxes, pop or sports drinks. Lisa recommends that parents step in and combat cavities with a few tips:

  • Ensure your kids choose snacks such as fruits and vegetables, whole grain crackers and unbuttered popcorn. Cheese is also an excellent snack that neutralizes other acids in the mouth.
  • Establish a consistent routine around caring for your kids’ teeth and supervise them when they brush and rinse.
  • Incorporate an alcohol-free mouth rinse into their routine. This will fight bad breath and ensure kids get more fluoride and anticavity protection than brushing alone can provide. (Mouth rinses are recommended for kids six and up or once they are able to swish and spit.)
  • Have fun! Use a wacky timer, change up mouth rinse and toothpaste flavours and buy fun toothbrushes. “Our kids time each other and we have funny face contests. We challenge each other to see who can hold the rinse and brush their teeth longer,” says Lisa. “This way, we don’t get bored.”

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, October 2012.

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