We’re So Well Informed, So Why Are Kids Still Getting Cavities?
We know more now more than ever about how to prevent cavities. We know we should eat healthy, clean our teeth properly and see our dentist every 6 months.
Why is the incidence of cavities is on the rise?
Here are my thoughts…
1- Snack foods are fast, easy, and loaded with more sugar than you think
When I grew up, maybe 10- 20% of my classmates had both parents working. Now, most households have two working parents and an extra caregiver to boot. That translates into choosing fast, on-the-go snacks and meals that are higher in sugars and salt because they are readily available. Because of a misconception that fatty foods make people fat, manufacturers have reduced fat content and increased the amounts sugar and salt to compensate for any lost taste. Foods that health-conscious parent routinely place in their childrens’ lunch boxes — granola bars, fruit snacks (not FRUIT) and yogurt snacks — are loaded with sugar.
2- Organic does not mean sugarless
There is a big misconception that if it is organic, or natural, it’s good for us. But sugar can come in many forms. Many natural sugars are just as harmful for our teeth as artificial and processed ones. Agave nectar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, honey…all of these are cavity-causing food additives that are all variations of the same thing: sugar.
3- Healthy food costs more than junk food
If you do the grocery shopping in your family, you know that a box of cookies is less expensive than a box of strawberries…even a meal at a fast food restaurant can be far less costly than a fresh meat and vegetable dinner made at home. But do the best you can here…try to save money other places.
4- Companies market unhealthy food products to teenagers
Teenagers need vitamin and nutrient rich food to strengthen teeth and bones and for overall physical and oral health. Unfortunately, this population is target number one when it comes to companies marketing energy and pop drinks, and foods high in sugar and sodium. The food and beverage industry is interested in youth as consumers because of their current and future spending power. Today’s children live in a media-saturated environment. Advertisers reach them over more media than we were exposed to as children…ever say to your kids “Back in my day, we didn’t have iPhones or the internet”? Teenagers often are given the first taste of independence and with that come money to spend when out with friends. As parents, we have to teach them responsible eating habits and hope they listen…
5- Parents are tired
I’m a full time working mom…I get it. Getting your kids to bed by 8 and making sure homework is done, lunches are made, and clothes are chosen for the next day is exhausting. But we still have to make sure WE do the work of ensuring our kids’ teeth are cleaned properly. Too many young children are left to brush their teeth themselves when really their dexterity is too limiting for proper brushing and flossing. I also get that some kids will argue and not let their parents in their mouth. But this is to me a non-negotiable!
Children under the age of 6…even 8 in most cases…don’t know how to floss their back teeth, the most likely place to get a cavity. At around age 6, adult teeth erupt BEHIND the last baby teeth. Because these teeth will be sitting lower than the last baby tooth until a few months pass and they fully erupt, your child will likely miss brushing them and a cavity can develop.
Take a few minutes and brush your child’s teeth every morning after breakfast and every night before bed. Include flossing in your night time routine to prevent cavities from developing between teeth.
6- Parents are not bringing their children in to see the dentist early enough
Most people are surprised to know that the Canadian and Ontario Dental Associations recommend that children visit a dentist by age 1!
Prevention can not be stressed enough. I, unfortunately, see 3-year-olds who already have decay from poor diet and oral hygiene habits.