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Vanessa Hand/MEDILL

Candy is not the only culprit in causing cavities in kids.

Investing in baby teeth

by Vanessa Hand
March 04, 2009


Vanessa Hand/MEDILL

 The earlier a child visits the dentist, the less parents will spend on dental care in the long run.

Related Links

Chicago Dental SocietyAmerican Academy of Pediatric DentistryNational Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

Protect your baby's pearly whites

1. Keep the H2O at hand. Drinking water between meals will rinse out leftover food that deposits on teeth.

Reduce sweets and starches. Everyone knows candies cause cavities, but carbs are just as bad. “Carbohydrates break down into sugar that feed bacteria,” said Dr. Cissy Furusho, spokesperson for the Chicago Dental Society.

3. Set aside time for meals. The more a child snacks, the more time bacteria remain in the mouth. “A snack should be consumed in one sitting,” said Furusho.

4. Sip through a straw. Using a straw or “sippy cup” will minimize direct contact between teeth and sugary drinks.

5. Fight the culprit at the scene of the crime. For after fast meals or snacks Furusho suggests keeping a toothbrush next to the kitchen sink.

Taking babies to the dentist before they have a full set of teeth may seem like a waste of money, but with cavities on the rise, it may be among the only sound investments in this bad economy.

According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and presented at the Chicago Dental Society’s midwinter meeting last weekend, taking a child to the dentist in the first year of life will significantly reduce future dental caries.

“Early visits will prevent cavities, prevent pain, and prevent a whole snowball of effects,” said Dr. Cissy Furusho, spokesperson for the Chicago Dental Society and dentist at Dentistry for Kids Ltd.

Educational campaigns in the early ‘70s highlighting the benefits of calcium and fluoride and new technology led to a decrease in kids cavities over the next 25 years. The trend should have continued, but according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research cavities in children started to rise in the mid '90s and are continuing to climb.

“I’ve had mothers bring in their 18 month-old babies with cavities,” said Furusho.

Diet may be to blame. The surplus of starchy foods and sugary snacks that contribute to childhood obesity are also affecting their smiles.

“Healthy diet is just as important as brushing regularly,” said Furusho.

Quick meals are a staple in children’s busy lifestyles. But continuous snacking keeps germs in the mouth for extended periods creating an optimal environment for bacteria growth.

“In the past, families had more structured meal times where food was ingested in one sitting,” said Furusho.

To prevent cavities parents should limit eating to mealtime and consider early visits to the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends children be seen before their first birthday.

“The first visit is to take a look around, but more importantly to educate the parent and start children on healthy habits,” said Furusho.

According to the study, the more preventive visits a child has early on, the less parents will spend on subsequent restorative procedures that may cost hundreds more.