When working with parents and children on good oral hygiene, Dr. Rula Shalabi of Indigo Pediatric Dentistry in Easley has a simple philosophy – “Frequency is key.”
Parents make many “rookie” mistakes. Dr. Shalabi sees it all the time, and even her own children challenge her into falling into the same food traps that many of her patients fall into. For example, we think we are in great shape when our child snacks on fruits all day, but Dr. Shalabi said, “Sugar is in almost everything.”
“It’s all about balance,” she reiterated.
Does she think parents should never give their children sweets and snacks? Of course not.
“I would be a hypocrite if I thought that,” she said.
But she does suggest “tricks” that parents can practice to keep their children’s teeth clean and cavity free. Besides frequent brushing and flossing, Dr. Shalabi said that drinking plenty of water throughout the day is very helpful.
She also suggested eating a raw fruit or vegetable that is a little bit crunchy – carrots or apple slices, for example – after eating a sweet or sticky snack. That can help start cleaning the chewing surfaces of your teeth, even those areas that can be hard to reach for brushing.
“If you can’t get to a toothbrush, course snacks are good alternatives,” she said.
But what about drinks?
“Many parents feel they are making a healthy choice by mixing ‘a little bit’ of juice with water throughout the day,” Dr. Shalabi said. “Actually, just give the child one to four 6-ounce cups of non-diluted juice or milk at a meal and leave it at that. And just give water for the rest of the day.”
And with milk, again, “frequency is key,” too.
“All milks – soy, almond and regular milk – have natural sugar,” she explained. “Drinking milk every hour can be just as bad as candy three times a day. Choose to give it during meals and not in between.”
The same goes for sports drinks for children.
“Athletes need drinks that help replace electrolytes. Don’t sip on them, chug them and then choose water to hydrate,” Dr. Shalabi said.
She reiterated that acid in soda, sports drinks and candy, especially sour candy, can attack the enamel of the teeth.
“Cheese such as mozzarella and cheddar are great snacks to eat after a meal as they neutralize acids in the mouth that attack teeth,” she said.
Once that enamel is gone, it’s gone and a cavity or a hold will form, said Dr. Shalabi, pointing out that “You can’t grow back enamel.”
Dr. Shalabi mentioned that diet is the number one contributor to cavities in children – not just the absence of brushing, which is something many parents believe.
“Of course brushing is important, but if you are doing it at least twice a day, I will be happy,” she said.
Another habit that parents may not realize is bad for teeth is grazing.
“Some kids take an hour to eat, while others graze a little all day long. Grazers have more cavities,” she said.
At the same time, she said she understands that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, routines have changed, and some parents are just trying to make it through the day. The result is that children are snacking more.
“I know families aren’t on normal schedules, and they’re staying at home most of the time. It’s hard right now. I get it. But that routine of telling your kids to brush before bed is important and helping them brush is even more important,” she concluded.
For more information on Indigo Pediatric Dentistry, visit www.smilewithindigo.com or call 864-442-6770.
By Theresa Stratford