PlayWell Publications

PlayWell Pediatric Blog

Hello Summer, Hello Good Dental Habit Reminders!

August 16, 2023

In summer, not only do our routines get disrupted and kids experience frequent “forgetting” by
themselves and by parents to engage in oral hygiene, but also our dietary habits can transition from
being regimented in schools with appropriate mealtimes and NOT-meal times, to being more of a free-
for-all. I totally get it; I have three little kids whose favorite thing to say right now is, “I’m hungry.” Not
only does this mean we (and I mean both the kids and the parents) sometimes grab less healthy foods
throughout the day instead of distinct mealtimes with healthily prepared foods, but we eat and drink
throughout the day without taking water-only breaks. It can be awfully tempting under a hot sun to grab
those sweeter drinks (e.g. juice, sports drinks, and soda). At home, sometimes we find ourselves looking
in the pantry or in the fridge not knowing what we want, and what’s REALLY happening is that we’re
thirsty, but we confuse it and start snacking. Same goes for our kids. Summer is an important time to
stay hydrated with plain, old water – serve it neat, on the rocks, up, shaken not stirred, however you

What causes cavities is a mixture of oral hygiene and diet. Oral hygiene is important for more reasons
than only for cavity prevention, and should be done well. That said, I like to say that, for cavities,
hygiene is 49% of the battle, while the other 51% of the battle is the diet. If you’re brushing PERFECTLY
morning and evening, but you do nothing all day but suck on suckers, drink capri-suns, and graze on
chips/crackers/pretzels, then you will undoubtedly develop cavities.

What matters to the dentist is NOT what’s in your stomach (though I do want you to be healthy), but
rather how frequently and for how long (duration) the cavity-causing food/drink is in your mouth and on
your teeth. Frequency is a problem caused by snacking and sipping. Snacking all day from the pantry,
sipping all day on non-PLAIN water drinks. Duration is a problem when we snack on certain foods, foods
that linger. If you eat a slice of cake with extra frosting, the frosting is melty, the cake itself is spongy,
and it’s not a snacky thing – you’re done in 5 minutes and it’s all gone from the mouth. You eat instead a
dry carb like chips/crackers/pretzels, not only is duration long because you don’t stop munching, but it’s
long because even when you are done, it’s all stuck inside the groovy grooves of the teeth! Kids do not
tongue stuff out of their teeth the way adults do when food is stuck. They don’t care and let it sit. A fun
experiment (to do one time… not daily) is to give your child an Oreo cookie and to take a photo of their
teeth every 5 minutes and see for how long it stays stuck in there.

So, during this summer heat and the many activities, make sure to be mindful of dental health! Establish
a non-schoolyear routine for completing dental and general hygiene practices. And please don’t chew
on ice! Wear sunscreen and also use lip balm with SPF (this is a big dermatology and dentistry one – we
don’t want oral cancers!). Make sure to eat distinct meal times and then have 2-3 hour-long water-only
periods in between meals to give the teeth a break. Go outside a lot, play a lot, be safe, and have fun all
summer long!

A kid playing with his toys

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