Dentists' Advice on Oral Hygiene for Kids

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I asked four dentists with extensive experience what they would banish from kids' diets:

-- Soda and Gatorade. "Pure sugar-delivery systems," is how Dana Greenwald described them. "Get your child to become a water drinker," says Brian Brumbaugh.

-- Raisins, or anything that sticks to the pits and grooves of the teeth.

-- Anything that the child eats after his or her teeth are brushed at night, especially milk in a bottle. This is a major cause of early-onset tooth decay.

All four dentists said that two minutes of tooth-brushing is ideal for children. All four also allowed how difficult it can be to get a child to brush for anywhere near that long.

Chong Lee suggests brushing your own teeth alongside your child. Sheila Samaddar's dental school professor said he brushed his children's teeth after they finished until they were 9 years old. Greenwald said, "I'd have done it till they were 13 if I could have."

Flossing is even more of a challenge, mostly because children don't have the fine motor skills to do it. Try flossers, brightly colored plastic wands with a length of floss at the end. "Just because you're not flossing the traditional way doesn't mean it's bad," Samaddar says. "If you do it some way or another and it's marginally effective, it's still more effective than not doing it at all. Ideally you want to do it seven days a week, but if you're doing it four days a week, that's pretty darn good."

-- Mark Trainer

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