Oral Health : A Good Time To Review Dental Care

Frank Lee, St. Cloud Times, Minn.

--SARTELL -- It's scary how many cavities children can develop in the post-Halloween months between leftover trick-or-treat candies and holiday parties.

A lot of dental decay is preventable if parents are selective about what they allow their children to eat and help them to take care of their teeth with proper brushing and flossing.

"Parents should be aware that 70 percent of kids that start first grade have already had a cavity ... so parents can kind of stop and reflect what they give their kids to eat and that it does affect their dental care," said Dr. Liliana Lucas of Pediatric Dentistry P.C. in Sartell.

"Especially with kids, as parents, we control what they eat. Especially in younger years, we want to teach them those healthy habits, so when they're teenagers, hopefully they're making the right food decisions."

Halloween trails only Christmas in terms of participation, according to the National Retail Federation. The trade association estimates that annual Halloween spending is about $5.8 billion.

"Halloween -- with the excessive amounts of candy available that kids get -- it's a good time to remind parents the importance of what sugar can do to their kids' teeth and how it can affect their overall health," Lucas said.

"Kids cannot truly brush their own teeth until they are about 8 or can write in cursive perfectly, so if they have the hand strength to write in cursive, they probably have the hand strength to brush their teeth; don't just assume your 2-year-old is doing an excellent job brushing."

More than $1.5 billion annually goes toward the purchase of candy, according to a survey by BIGresearch -- enough to buy everyone in America about 50 snack-size candy bars.

"The thing with dental decay is that it's a slow process, and it can be exacerbated by what kids eat," Lucas said.

"If a child, say, has pancakes with syrup in the morning but didn't brush and then gets to school and has graham crackers and chocolate milk, and then runs an errand with the parents and gets a sucker for being a good kid, before you know it, they've been exposed to sugar all day."

Moderation and intelligent choices are as effective "as garlic is against vampires" when it comes to protection against tooth decay, according to 1-800-DENTIST, a dental care advocacy group.

"What we're seeing is the numbers are going up as far as kids getting dental decay because of the food choices that are available. Chocolate milk is absolutely the worst thing for our kids' teeth, and so is juice," Lucas said.

"Early tooth loss caused by dental decay can result in impaired speech development and absence and inability to concentrate in school, and it also can reduce a child's self-esteem; they are very self-conscious of their teeth, especially if they're smiling and being teased by their peers."

(c)2012 the St. Cloud Times (St. Cloud, Minn.)

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