Parenting is tricky at the best of times, and everyone has their own path. It can be difficult to distinguish old wives’ tales from genuinely helpful ancient wisdom. After all, that advice didn’t arise out of a vacuum. It can also be hard to merge culture, tradition, or family heritage with modern scientific practice.
Sometimes, raising your children the way your parents raised you can get everyone into trouble. Fortunately, dental health is largely backed by research, so it’s easier to sift the superstition from the science. Here are a few examples of things parents are doing for their kids teeth that they probably shouldn’t be.
Adding sugar to feeding bottles
Many young mums are told that as their infants get older, breastmilk (and formula) aren’t enough to keep them satisfied, and weaning is required. They’re also told that when babies keep waking up at night, it’s because they’re hungry. So they’re commonly advised to lace a bedtime (or naptime) bottle with cereal or fresh fruit juice so that the baby gets fuller and stays asleep longer.
This advice seems sound, especially to a mum who hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in ages. But while that fortified milk may be good for sleep patterns, it’s bad for your baby’s gums and teeth. The constant exposure to sugar leaves them susceptible to cavities, because their mouth has no resting time to generate saliva and dilute the acids in the mouth. Additives in bottles have the same effect as (sugary) snacks between meals. Please avoid both.
Delaying their first dental visit
Adults aren’t very good at routine dental checks. For many of us, our first appointment with the dentist is in our twenties when our wisdom teeth start to hurt. So naturally, we make the same mistake with our kids. Ideally, everyone should see a dentist twice a year, just make sure everything in there is okay.
For kids, they should visit the dentist at least once before they start school. Most kids begin their education at the age of 3 or 4, and start to lose teeth at 5 or 6. That early visit can spot any problems in how the teeth are aligned, whether they have enough room, or if there are any early cavities.
Also, the average infant grows their first teeth at around 9 months. While every baby has a different path for their milestones, they should all have at least one tooth by the time they’re a year old. If they don’t, take them to the dentist to see of there may be another problem.
Neglecting their baby teeth
Many parents don’t pay attention to their kids’ milk teeth. They assume that since they’ll fall out from about 6 years of age, they don’t really matter. There are a few things wrong with that theory. One, bad oral hygiene doesn’t just affect the teeth, it affects the gums as well.
If anything, eating sugary snacks and not brushing enough as a kid affects your gums more than your teeth. And your gums are what your teeth grow out of, so unhealthy gums equal unhealthy teeth, when they erupt. Your baby’s first teeth – as well as their subsequent permanent teeth, will erupt with problems if their gums aren’t well taken care of.
Also, teeth don’t just rot at the surface. The damage can extend into the root, which means any future teeth that come from those same roots could have the same amount of damage. Finally, bad habits are hard to break, so if you don’t teach your kids to look after their baby teeth, they’ll be just as dismissive when their permanent teeth come in.
Excessively offering ‘healthy snacks’
There’s a danger in dieting, because we rush for low-fat foods. While these products may be low in saturates, they’re often high in carbs, sugars, and ‘healthy’ calories. Plus, even if they are more healthy, when you take too much of them, the net effect is counter-productive. The trouble is … because we know they’re healthy, we’re more likely to over-indulge.
Think about it. You’d balk at eating three chocolate bars in one sitting, or a whole packet of Maryland cookies. You’ll even flinch after four or five crisps. But Quest energy bars, choc-chip packs, and potato ‘chips’? Bring them on! Similarly, we may allow our kids to binge on dehydrated fruit, thinking it’s good for them.
However, these dried fruits can have four or five times more sugar and calories. Half a cup of dried apples has 24 grams of sugar, while half a cup of fresh apples only has 6. In terms of calories, that same amount of dried apples contains 104 calories. The fresh ones have 33.
Offering ‘good food’ too late
While it’s never too late to adopt a healthy diet, Dr. Steven Lin has offered some enlightenment on the matter. His dental theory suggests most if not all dental problems are caused by the evolutionary effects of poor diet. He believes that by removing Vitamins A, D, and K from our plates, our jaws don’t grow to their full size, leading to problems like crooked teeth, poor spacing, and impacted wisdom teeth.
So instead of waiting to get your teenager braces, feed them foods with these Vitamins right from utero (yes, expectant mothers and any woman who ever wants to have a family). It gives your kids a better fighting chance against future bullies, since they’ll be less likely to have ‘railroads’ in their teeth. It’ll save you a fortune in dental bills too!