3 Tips to Keeping Kids’ Teeth Healthy this Summer
Summer is here, and you’re at preparation level Eagle Scout. Play dates and camps are scheduled. Each backpack has its own stash of healthy snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. You’ve restocked the first aid kit and have a chore calendar on the frig. But solstice has barely arrived and you’re already having to put extra parent power into the kids’ brushing and flossing. Summer is longer than its June sunlight, even if your kids are on APS’s Alternative Schedule. Here are 3 tips on how to keep your kids’ teeth healthy this Albuquerque summer without losing your cool.
1. Keep a Brush-Book-Bed Routine
During summer months, keep the regular bedtime routine of brush, book, and bed recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Not only does this routine maintain the reading skills kids gained throughout the school year, but it also helps children settle more quickly to sleep. Fifty years of research show these routines help children sleep better and wake up less frequently. Remember, this before-bed routine is also about comfort and bonding. It’s up to you to prevent late nights or vacations from altering these routines:
- If children are sleepy, brush your teeth with them, and then read a short story or passage.
- Heading out to Balloon Fiesta Field for a day of fun and fireworks? Throw in travel toothbrushes and have the kids brush after snacks in the evening. You can carry your sleepyheads from the car to bed knowing they’ve brushed.
- If you’re visiting family, include them in your routine. Have grandma and grandpa or a favorite relative participate in the reading after brushing.
- Have a no-electronics before bed policy. Tablets, laptops, smartphones, and other electronic devices emit short-wavelength blue light that actually disrupts the body’s internal clock, suppressing the release of melatonin. That gets in the way of good REM sleep.
Remember, everyone in the family pays when your child doesn’t sleep well. And your child’s dental health will suffer long term if you inadvertently convey the message that healthy dental routines are only for the school year.
2. Limit Acidic and Sugary Drinks
“Here, stay hydrated with a nice cool glass of battery acid.” That’s almost what you’re offering up your kids’ teeth with summer favorites like lemonade, sodas, and fruit juices. Sounds like hyperbole, but let me explain.
Pure water has a pH of 7. Water is good for your teeth. It helps wash away food particles that stick to your teeth and create plaque, which creates its own acid that gnaw at your enamel. Yuck.
A pH less than 7 is considered acidic. Each whole pH value below 7 is 10 times more acidic than the number above it, so a pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than water. A pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic than water. By the time you get to a 4, you’re 1000 times more acidic than water. Hit the three range where many fruit juices and fruit drinks’ pH values sit, and you’re looking at acidic values 10,000 times more acidic than pure water. While that’s all very interesting, the pH value you really need to remember is 5.50, for tooth enamel dissolves at that acidic level and below. Plaque has a pH of 4; pH just got real!
Let’s take a look at some popular summer drinks and their pH levels:
Coca Cola: pH 2.52
Pepsi: pH 2.39
7Up: pH 3.20
Sprite: pH 3.24
Fanta Orange: pH 2.82
Hansen’s Cane Soda Kiwi Strawberry: pH 2.59
Sunkist Orange: pH 2.98
Canada Dry Ginger Ale: pH 2.82
Mug Root Beer: pH 3.88
A & W Root Beer: pH 4.27
Fruit Juices and Fruit Drinks
Ocean Spray Cranberry: pH 2.56
Dole Pineapple Juice: pH 3.40
Juicy Juice Apple: pH 3.64
Simply Apple: pH 3.67
Tropicana Orange Juice with Calcium: pH 4.09
Welches 100% Grape Juice: pH 3.38
Minute Maid Lemonade: pH 2.57
Simply Lemonade: pH 2.61
Sunny D Smooth: pH 2.92
Your children’s teeth get a double whammy of acid and sugar with sweet summer drinks. If you need information on why sugar is a health problem beyond harming children’s teeth, check out our previous blog post, “Is it time to break up with sugar?” For starters, the American Heart Association recommends children consume no more than 8 fluid ounces of sugary beverages per week. But a 12 ounce can of soda exceeds that weekly limit and daily sugar intake limit. Plus, kids usually drink these drinks when you’re out and about, far away from the ability to brush.
In the end, you model the behaviors you want your kids to adopt. If you drive through Starbucks and order a grande S’mores Frappuccino, which contains 67 grams of sugar (17 teaspoons of sugar), it’s going to be pretty hard to enforce a no soda or sugar rule with your kids. Not to mention, your dental health will suffer.
3. Always Carry Cold Water
Arm your family with insulated water bottles so your kids can get a cold drink of water instead of and after consuming sweet drinks. Look, sweet drinks are going to happen, especially when your children are in a group. You can’t run into the baseball dugout and snatch the sports drink out of your child’s hand. Not without being “that parent.” But water can help.
- Don’t add to plastic pollution. Purchase good, insulated stainless steel water bottles and write each child’s name on them. These come in a variety of styles and colors. Have your kids choose their favorite.
- Carry an insulated water jug in the car for family outings so family members can refill their water bottles.
- Make water the main “away drink” for your family. Don’t leave home without it.
Establishing good habits is a long-term endeavor. Don’t let the healthy habits you’ve worked hard to instill slip through the summer.
Remember, too, that parenting isn’t about perfection. It’s sticky pockets and tantrums in Target and thinking on your feet. If the only way you can get your little one to brush for a week is by becoming a human Narwhal, be a Narwhal. It’s all worth it and oh, so fleeting.
At Davis Gribble Hollowwa, we’ve got your back. Summer is a great time to have you children’s dental cleanings, checkups, and/or fluoride treatments. Or make an appointment for you to come in for some needed self-care.