Don’t overlook important oral health habits for young children

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, a great time to remember that a child’s dental health is set in motion from a very young age. Tooth decay can develop any time after the first tooth comes in, starting around 6 months old, and good habits should begin even earlier.

Only 28 percent of American parents would give their kids an “A” grade for oral health, according to a new survey of American children’s dental health by Delta Dental.1 In fact, nearly nine of 10 parents (86 percent) say their children’s oral health isn’t as good as it could be.

A majority of parents (51 percent) understand that oral care habits – rather than genetics or what their kids eat – are most responsible for their children’s oral health. Yet, almost one-third of children don’t brush twice daily, and 61 percent of children don’t floss daily.

The Delta Dental survey indicates that these poor habits start early, and American parents may be contributing to their children’s tooth decay long before they can brush or floss on their own.

Children’s baby teeth need to be brushed

As soon as a child’s first tooth comes in, it should be brushed. But 63 percent of American parents didn’t begin brushing for their children at this time. Instead, they waited until there were a few or even a full set of teeth.

The first tooth – and all subsequent teeth – should be brushed gently with a soft, child-sized toothbrush and a smear of fluoride toothpaste twice a day until age 2. A small, pea-sized amount of toothpaste should be used from ages 2 to 6. Even before children get the first tooth, the mouth and gums should be wiped with a soft, damp cloth or infant toothbrush after feedings.

Poorly established brushing habits have helped contribute to so many kids having cavities. These habits set a foundation for children as they get older. It’s important for parents to get their children in a routine as soon as the first tooth appears, so they don’t question the habit later on.

Children’s bottles and sippy cups at naptime and bedtime should be filled with water

Many parents don’t know that children shouldn’t be put to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, unless it contains water. But, 46 percent of parents with children under age 3 put their child down for a nap or bedtime with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk or juice at least once a week or more.

Fruit juice, and even plain milk, can be harmful to young kids’ oral health. Both beverages have many grams of sugar that, when left to bathe on teeth at naptime or overnight, can result in tooth decay.

Parents should only fill bottles or sippy cups with water, except at meal and snack times. And anytime children are given sugary beverages or snacks, teeth should be either rinsed with water or brushed afterward.

Some other important habits for healthy smiles:

  • Once any two teeth are touching, parents should floss, or help the child floss, once a day.
  • Children should first visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than the first birthday.
  • Parents should eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors – such as sharing utensils and toothbrushes and cleaning a pacifier with their mouths – which are all activities that can pass harmful bacteria to a child.

1 Kelton, a leading global insights firm, conducted the 2015 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via email with 1,325 parents of children ages 12 and under from Dec. 2, 2014 to Jan. 2, 2015. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±2.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Big Game, Big Taste: Healthy Super Bowl Snacks

Whether you watch for the football, the halftime show or the advertisements, you’re probably getting ready for the big game – and that usually means a big menu. Instead of opting for the usual game day treats, try one of these tooth-friendly substitutions for a pigskin party that’s delicious and nutritious.

Chicken wings, minus the sweet BBQ sauce.

If the sauce is sweet, it’s likely loaded with brown sugar. Instead, opt for a mustard- or vinegar-based wing sauce. If you prefer spicy wings, try using spicy brown mustard. For an exotic twist, make a sauce with curry spice and yogurt.[1]

White bean dip.

For a healthier veggie dip, try making your own with a can of cannellini (white kidney) beans, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Beans are full of fiber, which keeps you full longer and deters food cravings. They’re also rich in antioxidants.[2] Check online for a quick and easy recipe.

Deviled eggs.

Phosphorous helps build enamel – and eggs happen to be a very good source of the mineral.[3] Deviled eggs are always a crowd pleaser. To add an extra tooth-boosting oomph to yours, skip the mayo and mix mustard with Greek yogurt instead. Yogurt is a great way to get the recommended daily amount of calcium.[4]

Swap a few of your usual appetizers out for some of these, and you’ll be celebrating a healthy mouth long after the touchdowns are scored.





Colds, Coughs… and Cavities?

You’re probably aware that candy leads to cavities and sugary drinks can also cause decay. But cough syrup? Unfortunately, it’s true – certain syrupy medications can cause tooth troubles, especially if they’re consistently taken over a long period of time.

The antihistamine syrups you can buy over-the-counter to help you and your kids combat the flu or allergies often have high acidity and low pH levels. These medications can also contain sugar to help with the taste. Combined, those factors are like a one-two punch for teeth, working together to dissolve tooth enamel and cause erosion.[1]

Don’t worry – we’re not suggesting you suffer through seasonal ailments without any relief. Just follow these four tips to make sure the medicine doesn’t do more harm than good.

  • Avoid taking syrup medication right before bed. Since saliva flow naturally decreases at night, the residue won’t rinse away like it would during the day.
  • If there’s no way around a bedtime dose, make sure to rinse with water afterward.
  • Try to take medications with meals. Chewing increases saliva flow, which helps wash away sugars and acids.
  • Talk to your child’s dentist about a topical fluoride, which helps keep decay at bay.[2]

 With the proper precautions and good oral health habits, you’ll be able to keep colds, coughs and cavities away this season!



Little evidence to support benefits of oil pulling

If you follow health or celebrity news you’ve likely heard the buzz on the latest natural health craze to hit the internet: Oil Pulling.

As the name suggests, the practice involves using about a tablespoon of oil – typically sesame or coconut, preferably organic – as a mouthwash. The oil is swished and “pulled” through the mouth for upwards of 20 minutes per session before being spit out into the trash. This ancient Hindu Ayurvedic medicine remedy is said to have a laundry list of health benefits, among which are common dental health concerns: preventing tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath as well as whitening teeth.

While there are numerous articles with claims and personal stories supporting the practice of oil pulling, there is little scientific evidence to support these assertions. There is, however, significant evidence that a preventive oral care routine including brushing teeth for about two minutes twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily and visiting a dentist regularly can prevent dental disease.

There is likely little harm in trying oil pulling, other than possible discomfort from the lengthy swishing process. If you do decide to try this or any other alternative medicine or natural remedy, we encourage you to consider it a complement to a proven preventive dental care routine. You may also want to check with your physician or dentist to make sure that alternative practices will not interfere with any medications or affect other problems that you may have.

Three reasons to smile during National Smile Month

Just in time for National Smile Month, we present three reasons to smile:

1. Smile for Beauty’s Sake: According to a survey of more than 1,000 Americans nationwide, a smile is the most important physical feature that contributes to a person’s overall attractiveness. Nearly one-half of Americans (47 percent) cited the smile as the most important physical feature, followed by eyes (27 percent) and physique (16 percent). Men and women agreed on the order, though women said they put more emphasis on a person’s eyes.

2. Smile for Success: More than six of 10 Americans (64 percent) say a smile has some bearing on a person’s overall success.

3. Smile with Satisfaction: More than six of 10 Americans (64 percent) say they like their smile, and almost a third (31 percent) wouldn’t change a thing about it. Those who would change their smile most frequently cited cosmetic improvements such as whitening or straightening of teeth.

So get out there and celebrate National Smile Month with a smile – for whatever reason you choose!

Morpace, Inc. conducted the Delta Dental Oral Health and Well-Being Survey on behalf of Delta Dental with 1,003 consumers across the United States.

New Survey: Kids Need Brushing up on Oral Health

Although cavities are nearly 100 percent preventable, more than one out of four American caregivers reported that their children had a cavity filled in the past year. This was among the findings of a new survey1 of nearly 1,000 caregivers released today by Delta Dental in conjunction with National Children’s Dental Health Month. Among children who had a cavity in the past year, 53 percent had two or more cavities.

The 2013 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey shows that not only are Americans unaware they can pass cavity-causing bacteria to children, but they also need to brush up on some critical children’s dental health habits, including basics such as brushing and flossing.

Parents and caregivers need to teach good oral health habits to children at a young age to help prevent cavities. Baby teeth are very important. They help children chew and speak properly and hold space for permanent teeth. If a child has healthy baby teeth, chances are he or she will have healthy adult teeth.

These are some of the oral health habits that fall short of what’s recommended by dental professionals:

• Survey shows: Seventy-five percent of caregivers say they share utensils such as a spoon, fork, or glass with a child.
• Delta Dental recommends: Parents and caregivers should eliminate saliva-transferring behaviors – such as sharing utensils and toothbrushes and cleaning a pacifier with their mouths – all activities which can pass harmful bacterial to a child.

• Survey shows: Forty-nine percent of Americans with a child four years or younger report that the child sometimes takes a nap or goes to bed with a bottle or sippy cup containing milk or juice.
• Delta Dental recommends: Parents and caregivers should not put a child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, sweetened water or soft drinks, which can lead to baby bottle decay. Instead, caregivers should fill the bottle with water.

• Survey shows: For children who have visited the dentist, the average age at the first visit was 3 years old.
• Delta Dental recommends: Children should first visit the dentist within six months of getting the first tooth – and no later than the first birthday.

• Survey shows: Only 58 percent of children had their teeth brushed twice a day and 34 percent of children brush for less than two minutes.
• Delta Dental recommends: Children’s teeth should be brushed twice a day for at least two minutes each time. Parents should assist with this task until the kids are about 6 years old.

• Survey shows: Forty-three percent of parents or caregivers report that their children’s teeth are never flossed, and of children whose teeth are flossed, only 23 percent are flossed daily.
• Delta Dental recommends: Once any two teeth are touching, caregivers should floss, or help the child floss, once a day.

1 Morpace Inc. conducted the 2013 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via the Internet with 926 primary caregivers of children from birth to age 11. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Dog Diffuses Dental Distress

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 20 million Americans avoid going to the dentist out of fear.

Most dentists are well aware of their patients’ anxieties. They try to create a soothing environment where patients can feel calm and comfortable, beginning with an inviting waiting room and a caring, attentive staff. Some practices offer television, music, or even virtual reality glasses to entertain and distract nervous patients in the chair. Others employ pillows, blankets or aromatherapy to help their patients relax.

But one practitioner has found a unique solution to help his young patients conquer their dental phobia. The clinic of Dr. Paul Weiss, a pediatric dentist in Williamsville, N.Y., recently posted a photo on the popular website reddit that showed how he uses his golden retriever Brooke to act as a therapy dog to calm nervous young patients. According to, Brooke is bathed before each visit and Weiss’s office is cleaned after she leaves to maintain proper sanitation.