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Instilling healthy dental habits in school children

Posted:  Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Is it important for children to make tooth-conscious decisions at school? Yes, says Kathleen Pace, D.D.S., Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. Although everyone is susceptible to dental cavities, especially in the absence of healthy dental habits, dental cavities are seen more frequently in children.

Inculcating healthy dental habits in children should not be much of a task with the following tips from Pace:

•  Serve children a balanced diet with all food groups (whole-grains, proteins, fruits, vegetables and dairy products). This not only promotes optimal growth and health but also improves dental health as most natural foods have low sugar content.

•   Promoting healthy food habits at home can help influence food choices at school.

•   Popular snacks may lead to unhealthy teeth. Replacing them with fruits (preferably those with peels) as a school snack satisfies the child’s sugar cravings and provides nutrients that promote healthy growth and development.

•   Milk and milk products (like string cheese), as part of the lunch box, help build stronger bones and teeth. They also help prevent tooth decay by protecting the tooth enamel.

•   Steer clear of sticky, crunchy and high-sugar foods. Candies or gummies do not dislodge easily which coupled with their high sugar content are a recipe for tooth decay.

•   Sugar is present in most packaged foods. However, repeated sugar consumption increases the likelihood of tooth damage and decay.

•   Avoid packing cookies, sugary beverages or candy in a child's daily lunch as these sugar bombs are potential sources of dental cavities. Also reading food labels to choose natural or low sugar products is of utmost importance.

•   Active participation by parents in a child’s daily dental routine goes a long way.

Further Pace suggests that, "Children love to imitate, so let them watch you brush your teeth and floss. Or even better, do it with them. Really try to have your kids brush their teeth after breakfast."

Associating teeth brushing with something fun such as a favourite song or catchy tune can positively re-enforce healthy dental habits. When healthy habits are made fun and memorable during the formative years, children tend to practice them lifelong.

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