Tooth-friendly tips to counter dental dangers of pandemic snacking

Kids and parents in pandemic lockdown might be snacking more than before, and that concerns a D.C.-area dentist. But she has some tooth-friendly tips for families.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, it’s not always what is being eaten that causes tooth decay, but the amount of time that food remains on your teeth.

“Sipping on flavored beverages, sodas, juices all day [or repeatedly snacking], never really gives the teeth a chance to be clean. It doesn’t give them a rebound time,” said pediatric dentist Jonelle Anamelechi.

Anamelechi is on the faculty at Children’s National Hospital and has offices in New Carrolton, Maryland, and Northeast D.C.

When Anamelechi says “rebound time,” she means when you eat something or drink something flavored or sweet, it produces acid that weakens teeth.

“The bacteria gets on, it has a little party in the mouth — that’s really just the party between the food and the bacteria that then causes that acid,” Anamelechi said. “Acidic fruits like oranges, bananas, berries also need to be rinsed off after eating.”

But there are quick and easy fixes.

“One of those ways is to literally drink water afterwards. You just want to get what’s on the tooth, off,” she said.

You also can chew sugarless gum (although that’s not recommended for kids younger than 6) or eat an apple.

“An apple is like nature’s toothbrush. It’s fibrous; it cleanses,” Anamelechi said. “It doesn’t take the place of a toothbrush, but it certainly helps if you’re in a bind.”

As for some general guidelines, Anamelechi said visits to the dentist should happen early, and parents should continue helping kids with brushing longer than you might expect.

“They should really be helping their kids brush until about age 10,” Anamelechi said. “I get the ‘Oooos’ and ‘Ahhhhs’ when we say that in the office, but it’s all about [a child’s] ability — the dexterity to do so.”

“Helping” means letting kids brush first, but then parents going back in, brushing and inspecting and perhaps flossing tight area such as toward the back of the mouth.

Anamelechi said a baby’s first visit to the dentist should happen when they turn 1, or within six months of getting their first tooth.

Below is an infographic about how to fight the tooth damage caused by snacking:

Courtesy Children’s Choice Dental

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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