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By Rosylan Rojas

NDCHM-childrens-poster-2016Did you hear? February is National Children’s Dental Health Month! If there are any Star Wars fans reading this, you’ll be happy to know that this year’s theme is “Sugar Wars.” In honor of the campaign, here are some key ways you can fight cavities and keep your child’s smile healthy (and far away from the “Dark Side”).

Sugar Wars Tip #1: Watch out for sugar, starches, and sticky foods.
The type of food you feed your child matters! Sugary foods, starches, and sticky foods all can cause tooth decay, and lead to cavities.
What to do:
o Offer fruits and veggies at snack times in place of pretzels, crackers, or cookies
o Try to have your child brush his or her teeth right after eating sticky foods like dried fruit, caramel, peanut butter, and candy
o Provide foods rich in calcium every day. (Good options are cheese, milk, yogurt, broccoli, and almonds.)
o If you do offer a sugary treat, do it at a mealtime, and NOT as a snack. (This making it easier to wash away the sugar!)

Sugar Wars Tip #2: Limit the amount of time food spends on your child’s teeth.
Did you know that the amount of time a food touches your child’s teeth is more likely to cause tooth decay than how much sugar he or she eats? For this reason, sucking on a lollipop or sipping on a sugary drink increases the risk of getting cavities due to the constant contact with sugar.
What to do:
o Swap candy for a piece of fruit or a cheese stick
o Limit snacking to 2 or 3 times a day
o Avoid sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages, along with hard candies like lollipops
o Replace soda with water
o Limit juice to a single 4-oz. serving of 100% fruit juice
o If you have a baby, never put him or her to bed with a bottle containing any kind of milk, formula, sugary drink, or juice

Sugar Wars Tip #3: Knock out sugar by brushing and flossing daily.
This isn’t always an easy task but it’s an important one! Aside from healthy eating, dentists recommend that both children and adults brush their teeth for two minutes two times a day to keep a healthy smile.
What to do:
o Choose a small, soft bristled toothbrush for your child
o Replace each toothbrush after 3-4 months of use
o Brush your child’s teeth twice a day: once in the morning and again before bed
o Brush your child’s teeth for two minutes and don’t forget about his or her molars (back teeth)
o Floss your child’s teeth daily
o See a dentist twice a year
o Ask your dentist about fluoride

“Use the force” of these Sugar Wars tips to keep your child’s smile healthy! For more tips, check out this link from the American Dental Association: http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/national-childrens-dental-health-month/

Rosylan Rojas is a dietetic intern at Tufts University.

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