Yvonne M. Wolny, D.M.D, dental director, Blue
Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
With Halloween around the corner, children will soon collect
enough candy to satisfy their sweet tooth for months. While the kids will be
over the moon, as a parent, you may be left uneasy with the fear of cavities or
trips to the dentist. It’s important to engage in active conversations with
your children about proper dental care to prevent future tooth decay, gum
disease and bad breath.
Tooth decay is highly preventable yet remains the most
common chronic disease in children today. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 42
percent of children aged two to 11 have had cavities in their primary teeth.
Additionally, black and Hispanic children, as well as those from lower-income
families, have an increased risk of tooth decay. Taking proactive oral health
steps as part of children’s daily routine can help create long-lasting habits
to ward off health issues later in life.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) wants
to help ensure that everyone, children especially, are practicing good oral
health to keep smiles healthy for many years to come. An occasional treat, such
as Halloween candy, is unlikely to cause serious oral health issues—especially
if your children practice good dental health year-round.
Some easy-to-follow tips include:
Brush with younger children. For
young children and toddlers, put the toothpaste on the brush yourself and brush
their teeth yourself (or watch as they brush). They only need enough toothpaste
to just cover the brush and should be taught to spit out the toothpaste rather
than swallow it. Let toddlers try brushing themselves - even if they are not
doing a good job.
Not a fan of floss? Floss
your child’s teeth once a day as soon as the baby teeth touch each other. If
your child has trouble reaching their back teeth and can’t easily use dental
floss, then try to help them. Another option is trying floss sticks. They look
like a toothpick and they come in a case that you can stick in your purse or
pocket. Also, a Water Pik is great for kids with braces or those who are poor
Find out if your water contains
fluoride. Many towns add fluoride to the local water supply because
it helps keep teeth healthy. Most Rhode Island towns have fluoridated water,
but contact your local water supply board to be sure or get your well water
tested. If there isn’t fluoride in the water, your dentist may prescribe
dietary supplements or treatments for your child.
Visit the dentist every six
months. Kids (and adults) should go to the dentist for a cleaning
twice a year. This helps remove plaque buildup and stops small problems from
turning into bigger ones.
Help your child eat a healthy
diet. Cavities are often caused by sugary or starchy foods that
stick to the teeth, such as chewy candy, lollipops and chips. Don’t forget
crackers are a culprit too! It’s a good idea to limit these snack foods, as
well as drinks such as juices, sodas, flavored milk and fruit drinks. Dentists
also recommend that you save sugary and sticky foods for mealtimes when they’ll
be washed away by other foods and drinks.
Stay on track at school. Many
pre-teens and teens who have access to school vending machines love Gatorade,
Powerade, Monster and Red Bull. Encourage kids to avoid these incredibly sugary
drinks. Kids with braces should brush at school, although time is limited
there, so make sure kids are at least brushing after they get home from school.
Good oral health comes from developing and sticking to
healthy habits. BCBSRI is always working toward making dental care accessible
and affordable. Looking to learn more about BCBSRI’s dental plans and events?