Have you heard the phrase, “You have to pick your battles?” If you have a pre-teen or “tweenager” like me, this becomes a daily mantra. Getting your pre-teen to brush his or her teeth can sometimes be one of these “battles” because it can feel like pulling teeth.
While we know the many varied and wonderful benefits of regular brushing, our children tend to ignore our helpful advice. The reality is that we can’t force them to brush their teeth. It’s an uphill battle…and honestly it’s a battle most parents choose to overlook—but there’s a sneaky solution even your tweenager won’t be able to resist.
If you’re like most parents, you turned to the internet for ideas to build a better system that encourages your child to care more about his or her teeth. The internet is full of tips and advice on how to get your kids to brush. There are even Pinterest boards with hundreds of brush-your-teeth-reward-charts. The suggestions I found ranged from making the chore into a game to nagging your child until they concede. Unfortunately, most of those tactics only work for a limited time before you need to try something new.
Our intelligent kids are frustratingly capable of seeing through any ploy we develop to get them to do what we want, which is great because it means they’re smart…but not so great if you hope to get them into the habit of taking care of their teeth.
Figuring out a long term solution to this oral health problem may be one of the hardest challenges you’ll have. The good news is that thanks to science there is finally a solution that’s both dentist- and kid-approved.
There’s More To Oral Health Than Brushing
Did you know that good daily brushing and flossing are only one part of good oral care? It wasn’t until I turned to the internet for ideas to get my son to brush more consistently that I learned that there are three things that affect the health of your teeth other than brushing: diet, tooth makeup, saliva quality, and the presence of bacteria.
- An oral-hygiene friendly diet is one that limits or avoids sugars and starches. Sugars and simple sugars from carbohydrates bond with bacteria to create acids that attack your child’s tooth enamel. This is a daily struggle for even the most health conscious of families since most teachers and even families reward children with food and candy.
- Your child’s genetics also predetermine how susceptible his or her teeth are to cavities. Are the teeth groovy? Are the gums high or low? These can affect the health of the teeth. Your dentist can check this next time you’re in for a cleaning.
- Next, saliva. Yes, saliva works to keep the sugars and bacteria out of your kids mouth. Saliva keeps your mouth moist and rinses it; the alternative is dry mouth, which causes the gums, tongue, and other tissues in the mouth to dry out—a situation germs love. Maintaining healthy saliva in your mouth is a big preventative measure for healthy teeth and gums.
- Finally, bacteria—the real cavity culprit. Bacteria is what consumes the sugars and carbohydrates and ferments them in acid, which breaks down the enamel on your teeth and eventually leads to cavities. Besides feasting on your child’s favorite foods, it’s also genetic, so you may have passed down the cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth to theirs when they were a baby. Oops!
Remember to keep this in mind—while we all work hard to keep our pearly whites sparkling every day, sometimes our diet, genetics, and even our own mouths work against us! Proper oral hygiene, like brushing, can do quite a bit to keep things going, but as parents of tweens we can sneak in other oral care solutions to reduce our child’s chance of cavities.
I’m sure you’ve tried most tactics that just go in with the angle of “make it fun,” but you probably haven’t seen this “treat” that kids love and they’ll never know you’re secretly giving them a healthier mouth.
A Solution Where There’s No Nagging Required
As I’ve already noted, saliva cleans the mouth; it rinses off and neutralizes the acids created by the bacteria in plaque so that they can’t cause cavities. If you see where I’m going with this, then you already know that my solution to your child’s lack of brushing is one of their favorite types of candy—GUM!
Yes, I said it, you can give your kids gum to help them have a better oral hygiene. The action of chewing combined with the flavor of the gum increases your rate of saliva flow by a multiple of 10. The more saliva there is, the cleaner your mouth is—in addition to neutralizing the bacteria, saliva washes away food particles.
The best time to chew gum is right after eating, so it’s a good after-dinner treat. In fact, studies have shown that if you chew sugarless gum for 20 minutes after eating you can help prevent tooth decay.
Even the American Dental Association actively promotes chewing sugarless gum because it’s safe for the gums as well as improving oral health since the sugar isn’t there to interact with bacteria. The key is what type of gum you give your child.
The Key Ingredient
Listen, I’m not saying you should run out to the grocery store and pick up a pack of Big Chew. There’s a key ingredient that the gum must have in order to promote good oral health.
You’re looking for a sugarless gum that is 100% sweetened by xylitol, which has been proven to help keep teeth clean between brushings. It’s also a completely natural sweetener that is extracted from fruits and vegetables. Lastly, the added bonus of xylitol is that it also stops the growth of Streptococcus mutans, the plaque-based bacteria that is “a significant contributor of tooth decay” according to researchers.
Xylitol removes bacteria’s ability to stick to teeth, slowing the cavity-causing process. When xylitol gum is chewed over a long duration, the type of bacteria that grows in your child’s mouth changes, decreasing the potential for them to survive on the surface of the enamel.
Finding The Right Pack Of Gum
Most store-bought gum packs, while they say “sugar free,” are NOT the right option. They switch out sugar for aspartame—an unnatural and arguably toxic sweetener. Instead, you should look for gum that doesn’t have sugar or aspartame. You want a gum that’s sweetened 100% with xylitol.
Epic Dental is has the highest concentration of xylitol of any gum on the market today. And the good news is you can get this cavity-fighting gum in the School's Back Dental Pack, a kit specially created with a Child's busy schedule in mind. It comes with convenient packs and tins that you can fit in your car or in their backpack.
Surprise your kids next week with a convenient treat that will also keep your kid's teeth healthy while reducing their chances of cavities.