Lollipops and chocolate and taffy, oh my! Children are often told to keep their hands off the candy or else their teeth will practically rot right out of their face. But while everyone knows that sugar ain’t good for the chompers, could it be there’s been misinformation spreading across generations?

Studies show that we may have been missing the true cause of nasty cavities all along. Results from 1994 to 2004 suggested there was a decrease in dental cavities in all age groups except for children ages 2 to 5. So what could this possibly mean? Well, the real cavity offender may be closer to home than you think.

For young kiddies, getting a cavity is just a part of growing up. After a trip to the dentist, the icky hole is filled, and you’re on your merry way. Unfortunately, keeping kids’ teeth healthy isn’t as easy as it sounds.

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A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that about 28% of kids between the ages of 2 and 5 were found with cavities. The percentage increased about 6% in ten years, which was odd given that this is an age where parents usually pay extra close attention to their kids’ mouths.

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While the jump in dental cavities in children between 2 and 5 years old was already peculiar, what was even more confusing was that “boys, non-Hispanic whites, and youths from low economic families” were especially afflicted. There was no clear pattern.

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The report even highlighted the fact that there was a decrease in the number of elderly people who were losing all their teeth. So, if things were getting better as people got older, the problem had to be in those early years.

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Professor of pediatric dentistry at Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health, Paul Casamassimo, DDS, blames the fact that children “have much more sugar in their diets at an early age.” This is only a piece of the puzzle.

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Another issue could be that children are not getting enough fluoride in their water. The mineral aids in reversing early signs of tooth decay and protects the teeth from acid damage.

In addition to those, a frequent cavity culprit is bacteria. Parents are constantly sharing utensils and food with their kids, using their bacteria-infested saliva to wipe “schmutz” off of their precious babies’ faces, unknowingly causing more harm than good.

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Usually, babies are born with pure, clean mouths unhindered by icky bacteria, until mama comes along to spread her own germs. In fact, studies have shown that mothers (more so than fathers) can directly contaminate their offspring before the age of two.

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If your baby or toddler gets cavities frequently, it can affect their ability to eat due to pain, which is often linked to “soft teeth;” but misinformation regarding soft teeth has spread quicker than the teeth-eating bacteria mutans stroptococous.

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Dr. Edelstein, MD explained the myth behind soft teeth, saying, “It’s an old wives’ tale that ‘soft teeth’ run in families, but what’s really passed along in families are high levels of decay-causing bacteria.” But don’t freak out; there are precautions you can take.

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The Academy of Pediatrics pushes pediatricians to examine parents’ dental history once their baby is 6 months old. Based on said history, it’s their job to recommend the correct precautions to prevent the child from adopting this bacteria.

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It’s essential to teach your kiddies how to properly and thoroughly floss and brush their teeth as early as possible. When there’s no teeth present on the rims of their gums, you can simply show them the ropes with a wet toothbrush.

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It’s commonly thought that children under the ripe age of 5 have no reason to go to the dentist, but the condition of those wobbly baby teeth can affect future adult teeth more than we once thought.

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See, since baby teeth are technically placeholders for permanent teeth, a child losing even one baby tooth to decay prematurely can lead to a screwed up alignment of said permanent teeth in the future. Hello braces.

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Let’s talk about diet, too. Your starchy friends, such as cereal and bread, are just as guilty of hosting sugars that cling to teeth like plastic wrap. Actually, there are quite a few diabolical foods that mask their sugar content…

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Dentists have even referred to early tooth decay as “baby-bottle decay” because it’s commonly been found in children who were given milk or juice. When sugar has the opportunity to settle, it feeds, eating away at the delicate layers.

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Because of this, doctors urge that parents slowly ween their children off the baby bottle at approximately 14 months old to prevent rampant tooth decay. Around this time, they should be drinking more of that good H2O to stay hydrated!

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While it seems as though there are a discouraging plethora of toothy beasts that can harm your children, you can ask your dentist to apply a sugar and germ force field to your child’s teeth, AKA a fluoride varnish.

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A study showed that 1-year-old children who received a fluoride varnish treatment twice a year were four times less likely to get cavities in their baby teeth. Dentist approved sealants and coatings are another safe option to prevent tooth decay.

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By now you get that protecting a child’s baby teeth is vital to their future smile. With misconceptions and myths, it’s important to do your own research. Eating a healthy diet is the key too, so make sure you really know what you’re biting into.

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If it grows from the earth it’s gotta be a healthy choice, right? Not always. Stone fruits in particular are packed with sugar. Bananas and melons also air on the higher end of the fructose serving scale.

Don’t worry! There are less sugary fruits out there to sink your teeth into. Toss back a handful of blueberries to fulfill your cravings. Strawberries and raspberries are safe bets too. Granny smith apples are another low fructose option.

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Stop reaching for prepared fruit juices and smoothies in lieu of your breakfast. Aside from steep prices, 1 of these juices wipes out the entire recommended daily sugar intake. Also, since their made from fruit juices as apposed to whole blended fruits, they have no fiber.

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Prepacked trail mix is another health food pretender. The process of drying fruit amps up the sugar content of an already relatively sugar high food. Really, the only worthwhile snack in the bag are the mixed nuts, and every rational person pushes past them to eat chocolate.

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Mixed nuts are high in calories, which really defeats the point of a trail mix. Luckily, you can make your own at home to ensure each handful is a delicious, yet guilt free bite. Good options include: sunflower seeds, unsweetened coconut, walnuts, soy nuts, and roasted peanuts.

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Combine butter, Parmesan, and heavy cream and what do you get? The delicious stupor inducing treat that is Alfredo. Adding this sinister sauce to pasta is a recipe for a meal heavy in carbs and fat that can spike glucose levels.

Flip your pasta party into something considerate of diet restrictions. Whole wheat pasta cuts down on carbs, while adding a boost of fiber. Slather those noodles in a traditional tomato sauce. Store bought works, but control the sugar intake by cooking your own from scratch.

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White rice is one of those pesky foods with a high glycemic index, meaning the carbs convert to sugar in the body super quickly. Really, it’s not all bad. White rice increases folic acid, which aids in producing new cells. It’s just not an ideal mainstay for a diabetic’s diet.

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Sub in the next best thing — brown rice. It’s doubly rich in vitamins and minerals, that are stripped in the process of refining the grain in white rice. That process also cuts out tons of fiber. Basically, brown rice is the clear victor.

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Here’s a secret: that’s not really coffee. All the benefits of the caffeine boost are muddled with sugary syrups, high fat milks, and oodles whipped cream. It’s possible to cut down on the sugar content, ask for low fat milk, half the syrup pumps. Just consider these on par with milkshakes.

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Microwaveable meals are a lunchtime staple. Even though the box claims to be “lean” or “healthy,” flip it over and read the nutrition facts. A rule of thumb is to avoid frozen meals that are over 500 calories and less than 30% of calories from fat.

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The best way to start your day is without sugary breakfast cereals and surprisingly — oatmeal. Prepacked oatmeal contains a lot of sugar, with added flavors and sweeteners, that spike glucose levels in the blood. Opt for old school oatmeal, the real stuff.

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You know those people that drink a glass full of raw eggs? Well, you don’t have to that, but they’ve got the right idea. Protein heavy breakfasts, better yet, egg white breakfasts, are a safe bet for those with dietary restrictions.

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My bologna has a first name, it’s sodium. That’s not what Oscar Meyer intended, but nevertheless, it’s true. Processed lunch meats are loaded with salt and calories, that, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, put you at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

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We’re ruining all your childhood favorites, including white bread. Like it’s cousin white rice, white bread is part of the refined carbohydrate family. It digests rapidly, spiking blood glucose levels. Made from refined white flour, all the good bits, fiber, nutrients, are stripped away.

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Cover your ears Leslie Knope. Waffles and their nemesis, the pancake, should be consumed in moderation. They fall under the refined carbohydrate category, from the white flour, and that’s without any toppings.

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