A recent survey conducted by Illinois-based nonprofit group Delta Dental Plans Association, found that many Americans are unaware that they can pass along cavity-causing bacteria to children, and many are unaware of proper oral health practices for young children. The 2013 Delta Dental Children's Oral Health Survey reported that one in four Americans who participated in the survey have children who had at least one cavity treatment in the past year. Having poor dental practices increases the chances of bad breath in children, and can raise the risks of future issues.
The survey results
Dentists and oral hygienists say that cavity treatments are 100 percent preventable, but common practices like sharing utensils or a glass with a child is an easy way to transfer bacteria. The survey found that 75 percent of parents and caregivers said they share these types of items. The organization recommends stopping any practices where saliva and bacteria can be transferred, including cleaning a pacifier with their mouth.
The survey also found that only 58 percent of children brush their teeth twice a day, and 34 percent of kids brush their teeth for less than two minutes, which is inadequate to remove plaque buildup and get rid of bacteria. Until a child is six years old, a parent or caregiver should assist them to make sure they are brushing for at least two minutes, twice a day. Starting these healthy practices when they are young (children should visit the dentist by the time they are one), will increase their chances of continuing good oral health practices.
"Parents and caregivers need to teach good oral health habits to children at a young age to help prevent cavities," Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental's vice president for dental science and policy said. "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."
There is also an astonishingly low number of children who floss their teeth. Only 43 percent of children are flossing, and out of those children, 23 floss on a daily basis.
Beverages for children
According to the survey, 49 percent of respondents said their children often take naps with a sippy cup of juice or milk. Drinking these liquids and then going to sleep can lead to bad breath in children and could lead to tooth decay if practiced over a long period of time. Children should instead have water with them while falling asleep. This can also get them used to drinking water, which is a key in maintaining oral health.
However, the type of water given to children can make a difference. The survey found that 64 percent of caregivers gave children bottled water instead of tap water, which is depriving them of the high content of fluoride that is in faucet water. Although some bottled waters do contain fluoride, it is usually not the high content that is present in traditional water. Fluoride helps to remineralize teeth that are damaged from acid produced by bacteria in the mouth.
More than 65 years ago, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention named water fluoridation as one the top best public health achievements of the 20th century, but many parents today believe that bottled water is healthier. Children can receive fluoride other ways if necessary, including fluoridated toothpastes or mouth rinses, supplements or bottled water that contains fluoride.