Dr. Ying: In general, I would avoid giving any gummy vitamins to kids. Most are very sugary and sticky, so they tend to get stuck on the grooves of the molars and can cause cavities. I’ve seen patients whose parents are great about brushing and flossing their kids’ teeth, they get sealants on the permanent molars, but still get cavities on the chewing surfaces of their molars. This is usually due to gummy, sticky vitamins and snacks. Ideally, I would recommend that parents try to give kids necessary vitamins and minerals through diet, but I know it can be very challenging to ensure that kids eat their fruits and vegetables as they should.
I know some parents opt for Juice Plus gummies, and I would highly recommend brushing the kids’ teeth right after. In addition, some medicine only comes in gummy form or the child can only tolerate the gummy form. An example is gummy melatonin. Again, just make sure parents are brushing right after.
Fruit snacks at birthday parties or school functions is okay once in a while, but it should not be a daily or weekly thing. With Halloween coming up, I’d like to remind parents that chocolates are better than hard candy, which is better than gummies (Starbursts, jelly beans, and gummy fruit snacks).
Dr. Ying: The “cool” drinks that kids see on the fields used to be Gatorade/Powerade, and now Body Armor is the new trend. Most parents are conscious about sugar intake for their children, so they would opt for the zero sugar sports drinks. This is great! However, we still need to look at the acidity of the drinks. If there is flavor added, there is likely acid in the drinks. It’s the acid that wears down teeth enamel. Even the flavored drops adults add to water are acidic!
I tell my patients to treat themselves to a Gatorade/Powerade or Body Armor on a game day in addition to water, but for regular practices, water is best! Rinsing with water after an acidic drink does help, but ultimately, to neutralize that acidic pH, the best thing would be something very basic or alkaline like baking soda.
Dr. Ying: We all love some pebbled ice (Milo’s!), but this is a very bad habit for teeth. It’s literally creating constant trauma to teeth and can cause enamel wear or fractures over time. Sucking on ice is better but most of us still love a good crunch when there’s pebbled ice in our cups.
I recommend my patients to avoid crunching on ice after they get fluoride varnish treatment on their teeth, after dental sealants, or if they have had trauma to their teeth requiring large fillings. I’m not sure there is an easy alternative to just stopping the habit altogether.
Dr. Ying: The recommendation is to have the child floss by themselves once they can tie their own shoelaces due to hand dexterity. However, I’m not sure if this applies anymore. My seven year old can tie his shoelaces well and fast. However, I do not trust his flossing. My eight year old is slower at tying his shoelaces, but he is great at flossing his teeth, even using the ortho flosser for his braces! I still floss for both of them, and we take turns every other night.
As for brushing, I still brush for them at night since that is a more important time compared to the morning.
BMC: Lastly, let’s talk about what to do after brushing. Should we rinse or not rinse our kids’ teeth after tooth brushing?
Teeth absorb fluoride from direct application (for example, fluoride treatment in the dental office, toothpaste, fluoride mouthwash, etc.), and it is better not to rinse our mouths out with water after brushing. Kids who can spit should spit as much as they can after tooth brushing, but they should avoid rinsing with water afterwards. For kids who cannot spit, a thin smear of fluoride toothpaste should be used, and parents can use a washcloth to wipe a lot of the “foamy toothpaste” away after brushing.
Thank you, Dr. Ying, for sharing your expert advice with us, not only as a pediatric dentist, but as a mom, too! If you have any other questions for Dr. Ying, please ask them in the comments below!