Your children wave to you as they return home from school. How do you know that they have had a good day and are happy to see you? You can tell when someone is happy and healthy by their smile.
Though we often focus on things like immunizations and clean hands when we seek to prevent our loved ones from getting sick, it is also very important to make sure that they have healthy teeth. Tooth disease can lead to painful dental caries (cavities) as well as infections. Your children may not be able to pay attention and learn well in school if they have tooth pain.
A cavity in a tooth is an early sign of tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs because certain types of germs, known as bacteria, attach to the surface of the tooth and eat chemicals in the food we eat. Sweet foods containing a lot of sugar are the most dangerous to teeth, because the germs turn the sugar in sweet foods into harmful chemicals that destroy the protective parts of the tooth. Tooth decay can be very painful and can lead to problems with chewing, changes in how teeth look and even cause people to lose teeth. It is not healthy or normal for adults or children to lose teeth due to tooth decay.
You can prevent tooth decay!
Eat Less Sugar: If you eat less sugar, then the germs have less sugar to eat too! A low sugar diet can lower the amount of harmful chemicals made by germs. It is important to eat less candy, ice cream, soda, fruit juice and cookies.
These foods are bad for your teeth. Sipping on soda and eating multiple snacks throughout the day is also harmful to your teeth. Having three meals a day with only two snacks is another way to keep your teeth healthy.
It is not only sugar that is harmful, but foods that can be turned into sugar in your mouth, like starches in bread, crackers and cereals. Vegetables and cheese are examples of foods that are healthy to eat and are good replacements for unhealthy snacks.
Don’t Share Utensils: Your child can get cavity-causing germs from you. Don’t share germs by sharing spoons or other eating utensils with your child!
Stay Away from Tobacco: Any type of tobacco is bad for your teeth and mouth. Chewing and smoking tobacco can cause cancer, disease in your gums and tooth decay. Tobacco can also change the color in your teeth. Keep your white smile and stay away from tobacco!
Brush and Floss Your Teeth: Brushing with toothpaste at least twice every day can strengthen teeth and get rid of the dirt that is formed by germs. Make sure your toothpaste has fluoride in it to best protect against germs.
Flossing every day is also important for your health. Along with daily brushing, chewing with a sugar-free gum can help prevent cavities — especially one containing the chemical “xylitol”. Fluoride in water from the faucet is also safe to drink.
Tap water helps fight tooth decay. This is one reason why drinking plenty of clean tap water is good for your health.
See the Dentist: It is important for everyone, especially children, to see a dentist every six months. Dentists can find and fill cavities before they are painful or cause serious damage.
They can also apply sealants to the teeth of children to prevent some tooth decay. It is good to find a nearby clinic that can serve the whole family.
Contact Portico Healthnet at 651-603-5100 or United Way 211 at 2-1-1 or 1-800-543-7709 to find the dentist in your area at affordable rates. For more information visit The Minnesota Dental Association’s website: www.mndental.org.
This article was contributed by MDH Refugee Health Program as part of an ongoing series. Special thanks to the University of Minnesota Medical Students and Community Dental Care.