Don’t Allow Your Children’s Teeth to Erode Out of Loving kindness
You’ve been concerned about your child’s dental health since the first tooth appeared. Regular check-ups at your family dentist, daily brushing and flossing, and a balanced diet are all part of your routine. You’ve even reduced your intake of sugary drinks in favour of healthier fruit juices…oh, wait…
While it is admirable that you are concerned about the nutritional worth of the meals you feed your child, it is also prudent to remember that every rose has a thorn. When it comes to food and drink for maximum health, there are trade-offs to be made, including the condition of your child’s teeth. Parents are often unaware that fruit juices include acids, the same culprits found in soft drinks, which can contribute to a kind of tooth damage known as dental erosion.
Dental erosion is the direct wearing away or dissolving of tooth enamel caused by exposure to acidic beverages and other foods. In severe cases of dental erosion, teeth can be worn down to stumps. Unlike regular tooth decay, in which bacteria in the mouth make acids that form cavities (also known as ‘caries,’ the dental erosion we’re talking about here is a direct result of what we eat and drink. It’s as if by drinking acidic beverages, we’ve bypassed the middlemen, the bacteria, and gone straight into the business of destroying our teeth!
Experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the growth in tooth erosion among children and adolescents. It has been reported that children as young as four years old have needed to have their teeth capped due to enamel erosion. It appears that children are more sensitive to dental erosion because a) they are exposed to less fluoride, which protects the teeth, and b) they consume a lot of sodas and juice beverages. One in every eight teenagers in the UK consumes 22 cans of Coke every week! Guess who is most vulnerable to dental erosion?
The Most Serious Offenders
To make matters worse, the commonly suggested habit of brushing teeth immediately after meals can exacerbate dental erosion. That’s because the acid in your drink gets to work right away. Sucking on a lemon or sipping a can of cola, then running your tongue down the inside of your teeth. Can you tell how sludgy it is? That is the weakened dental enamel caused by the acid in your drink. Take note of how quickly it works as well. Dentists now recommend that you wait thirty minutes after consuming such foods before brushing your teeth due to the fast acting nature of the food acids. This allows your saliva to neutralise the acid and reverse the softening process.
We are not implying that all fruit juice is harmful. Fruit provides numerous vitamins and minerals that are necessary for excellent health; therefore, it is critical to incorporate fruit and, yes, fruit juice, in your family’s healthy diet. Just keep in mind that orange juice and other citrus fruits contain citric acid, which is one of the primary causes of dental erosion. In fact, it is the citric acid and phosphoric acid in soft drinks, not the carbonation, that adds soda to the rogues gallery of causes for tooth erosion. Wine has been linked to dental deterioration in adults because its acidity is comparable to that of orange juice.
You don’t have to throw out that freshly acquired orange juice; nevertheless, keep in mind that it is the frequency of use, not the volume of juice, that can form or break a pattern of dental erosion in your children’s and your own teeth. Try following these common sense rules: Fruit juice should be served with meals, not in between. Serve fruit juice diluted with water to minimise the acid level, and avoid using fruit juice in a bottle as a “comforter” for a baby or small child. Little ones who spend time sucking on a juice bottle or a’sippy’ cup of juice may be just as prone to dental erosion as soda-guzzling teenagers!
What to Look for – Eroded Teeth Signs
If you pay attentively, you may be able to detect some early indicators of tooth erosion. How do your teeth feel when they are exposed to heat, such as when you drink hot coffee or tea, or when you consume cold beverages or sweets? If you suffer pain or sensitivity when eating these foods, it could be because the tooth enamel has worn away, exposing the sensitive inner part of the tooth (known as ‘dentine’) to the irritant.
Keep an eye out for any colour changes in your children’s teeth. Translucence and yellowing are the two things to check for. With erosion and wear, the cutting edge of the middle teeth (called ‘incisors’) can become translucent. The yellow tint can be visible anywhere the white enamel has worn thin enough to reveal the yellowish dentine. If you notice erosion on your child’s or your own teeth, visit your dentist for a comprehensive examination. Consider formulating a treatment plan if erosion is discovered.
Prevention is the best medicine.
As previously indicated, modest changes in the way you serve fruit juice to your family can help to lessen the risk of tooth erosion. Here are some other strategies to increase protection through prevention:
Drink milk or plain water – both of which include natural chemicals that are beneficial to your teeth. Milk and other calcium-rich meals aid to strengthen your choppers by replenishing the mineral content.
Brush your teeth carefully with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Reducing the abrasive pressures that your teeth are subjected to can help keep them healthy.
If you or your child absolutely must have fruit juice, sports drinks, or soda, try drinking them via a straw. This keeps the liquid away from your teeth and lowers your exposure. Also, after drinking, rinse your mouth with plain water for 30 minutes before brushing to minimise the acid content.
You may help your family avoid an unpleasant encounter with tooth erosion by following the easy actions suggested below and visiting your dentist for regular checkups.
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