Few can be unaware of the importance of proper dental and oral health, yet tooth decay is the number one chronic health problem in American children, according to the American Dental Association.
More than 16 million American children suffer from untreated tooth decay!
Poor diet and nutrition, improper hygiene, and the pressure to use fluoride all contribute to the state of our children’s teeth.
Developing good oral health habits at an early age will last a lifetime and significantly improve a child’s overall health.
And as February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, there is probably no better time to promote oral health and cleanliness!
If you haven’t guessed it already, a major cause of tooth decay in children is poor diet and nutrition.
The prominence of sugary drinks and snacks means the average child doesn’t get enough minerals or vitamins.
Their diets lack healthy food choices and contain too many foods high in carbohydrates, starches, and sugar–often resulting in mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
Consistent and frequent consumption of refined sugar, sugary soft drinks, and many processed foods can cause rapid demineralization of your child’s teeth. This includes the enamel and dentin, which is formed during the bacterial fermentation of the dietary sugars.
The sugars in many of these foods and drinks serve as food for mouth borne bacteria. And when a child regularly snacks between meals, bacteria in the mouth feeds on the supply of food and produces acids that attack tooth enamel.
These acid attacks slowly dissolve away minerals from the tooth structure and weaken it over time.
The World Health Organization and dental experts argue that the massive consumption of sugar in the Western diet is throwing “fuel on the fire” of tooth decay.
Poor Dental Hygiene
In addition to impoverished diet and nutrition, poor dental hygiene is a significant factor in tooth decay.
An Ad Council survey found that
Over 60 percent of parents with children aged 12 or younger didn’t regularly help their children brush their teeth
Roughly 31 percent said they argued with their children at least once a week to brush
Only 44 percent of parents said that their child brushed their teeth twice a day or more
Now, I’m not saying it’s always the parents’ fault if kids develop bad hygiene; I know how difficult children can be when it comes to oral health. After all, I was a stubborn kid once, too.
However, teaching kids the importance of proper oral hygiene at a young age will definitely go a long way towards developing good habits. These habits will, in turn, lead to good oral health and prevent potentially painful and expensive problems down the road.
If you don’t regularly help or teach kids how to properly brush their teeth and if you don’t emphasize how often they should be brushing their teeth, they’ll likely develop poor hygiene and oral problems.
Problems in your child’s mouth can also affect their body’s health in later life.
Many people, especially parents, may not know that bad oral health can lead to future health problems.
Countless studies suggest that oral health is a “window to your overall health.”
The Mayo Clinic, for example, says poor oral health may affect, be affected by, or contribute to such health issues as
- Endocarditis. Gum disease and dental procedures that cut your gums may allow bacteria to enter your bloodstream. If you have a weak immune system or a damaged heart valve, this can cause infection in other parts of the body, such as an infection of the inner lining of the heart, known as endocarditis.
- Cardiovascular disease. Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke may be linked to oral bacteria, possibly due to chronic inflammation from periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease.
- Pregnancy and birth problems. Gum disease has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
- Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, putting the gums at risk. In addition, people who have inadequate blood sugar control may develop more-frequent and severe infections of the gums and the bone that holds teeth in place, and they may lose more teeth than do people who have good blood sugar control.
- Osteoporosis. This condition, which causes bones to become weak and brittle, may be associated with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
- Alzheimer’s. Tooth loss before age 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
- And more. Other conditions that may be linked to oral health include Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder, eating disorders, and obesity.
So, it’s pretty clear why it is critical to raise awareness and stress the importance of good oral health at a young age.
What should you do?
As in so many cases, there are two sides to the story:
1. What many dentists and organizations say you should do
2. What you should actually do
So what are they telling you to do?
Many dentists and organizations, including the ADA (American Dental Association) and the Ad Council offer tips on preventing tooth decay.
This advice typically includes
- Clean between teeth daily with floss
- Provide a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacking
- Replace your child’s toothbrush every three to four months
- Have your children brush 2 minutes each time, 2 times a day
- Visit your dentist regularly
There are also great tips scattered throughout numerous articles and websites on children’s dental health.
Most of this advice is fantastic, especially tips on nutrition, a balanced diet, and general dental/oral hygiene.
But, and it’s a big but, many of these same organizations, websites, and articles also emphasize fluoride.
Dangers of Fluoride
Fluoride is regularly used as a topical treatment to prevent tooth decay in such products as toothpaste. In fact, most dentists and industry organizations recommend using a toothpaste with fluoride. And on dentist visits, many dentists will often — if not always — polish your child’s teeth with fluoride and offer fluoride gel treatments.
Most people are also exposed to fluoride through their water supply.
Yet if swallowed, this mineral can be quite harmful.
We have a blog post, Is Fluoride in Water a Good Thing or a Bad Thing?, that makes some interesting points on just how harmful fluoride can be:
- 41% of kids today have dental fluoridosis, a discoloring of the teeth caused by too much fluoride
- The ADA and the CDC both advise that parents not use fluoridated water to make infant formula
- Fluoride is used as an insecticide and a rat poison There’s plenty of fluoride in the food we eat!
- A toddler gets as much fluoride in their system as a 250 lb man
- Toothpastes have warnings “keep away from children under 6 yrs – if you swallow more than is allowed for brushing, contact a poison control center immediately” (Ever watch a little kid brush their teeth?)
- Sodium Fluorine (fluoride) is one of the basic ingredients in PROZAC® and Sarin nerve gas (yes, you read that right!)
- And much more!
Not only are these points kind of sickening, fluoride also has many harmful potential health hazards, including brain damage, muscle disorders, and much more! If that is not enough, read more from Dr. Mercola!
Preventing tooth decay and naturally
In healthy children, new dentin and enamel is constantly being generated from vitamins, minerals and enzymes in their bloodstream.
Although the process is slow, the proper vitamins and mineral ratios in your child’s body help counter the process caused by the breaking down of dietary sugars.
If the ratios of minerals and nutrients in your child’s body are out of balance, it simply cannot replace the teeth cells properly before the disease, or tooth decay, takes over.
So if your child’s diet involves less healthy food choices and more sugary snacks, sugary drinks, starches, etc, it affects the ratio of minerals and nutrients in their body, and it cannot match or replenish the decaying process.
In short, this process of avoiding and stopping tooth decay simply boils down to proper diet and nutrition.
Many studies have pointed out that bodies deficient in vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and many other vitamins are more likely to experience tooth decay and oral health problems.
According to the Vitamin D Council, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased cavities.
So what can you do? We suggest, you:
- Minimize your child’s consumption of sugar, grain, and processed foods
- Make sure your child’s diet is rich in fresh whole foods and vegetables to help ensure they are getting the minerals important for strong bones and teeth
- Lead by example and be sure your kids see you brushing and flossing as part of your daily routine, which will encourage proper cleaning habits
- Avoid flouridated water and flouridated toothpaste. Instead of flouridated toothpaste, try some of our natural toothpaste! We have many kinds, including options with xylitol or probiotics.
And if your child is deficient in minerals or vitamins, try out some of our children’s multivitamins!
“How to Stop Tooth Decay” – Smallfootprintfamily.com
“ADA study confirms dangers of fluoridated water, especially for babies” – NaturalNews.com