This Quarter’s Theme: Well-being

Tooth Talk Answers Your Questions About the Dental Health Benefits of Water

Question: I’ve noticed some of the parents of toddlers and young preschool children in my program rarely consider water as an acceptable drink for their children. Can you give me some tips for persuading them to think water first?

According to Gary Rozier, DDS, Professor of Health Policy and Management, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, drinking water straight from the tap is important to a child’s overall good health. “A study published in the journal Pediatrics in September 2014 reported that the prevalence of obesity in 6-year-old children was twice as great among children who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages during infancy compared to those who didn’t (17.0% vs 8.6%).

“This study adds to the growing evidence that sugary beverages are linked to increased calories, weight gain and related health conditions, creating a growing public health crisis. According to the latest national statistics 66% of children 2 to 11 years of age consume sugary beverages: primarily soda for adolescents and fruit drinks for children.

“Guidelines for Early Head Start and early childcare settings limit the amount of juice and other sugary beverages. Some programs have eliminated juice altogether. Water is an important substitute for these beverages in early education settings and public schools, and “drink more water” campaigns are springing up in some parts of the country, with support from recent recommendations from The Caring for Our Children, 3rd edition (CFOC3). However, these recommendations specify no water for children younger than 6 months and only limited water up to age 1; formula and milk are best for the under-1 age group. That’s why it’s even more important to brush with fluoride toothpaste with the appearance of the first tooth, because many children under age 1 aren’t getting much beneficial fluoride from water.

“The most common chronic disease in preschool children is tooth decay. In NC, more than one-third of children have experienced tooth decay by the time they enroll in kindergarten; more than half of Hispanic children. Substituting water for sugar-sweetened beverages can not only cut empty calories, but also reduce tooth decay by eliminating the sugar that leads to dental problems.

“Water also is healthy and can actually protect the teeth from decay. Most public water systems in North Carolina have fluoride added as per CDC recommendations. About 88% of North Carolinians using community water systems (6.2 million people) have access to fluoridated water.   Simply by drinking water from the tap, most North Carolinians can help prevent tooth decay at no added expense. Studies show that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent over a person’s lifetime.

“Although widespread, some children in early education programs might not be getting enough fluoride because their home drinking water is not fluoridated (well water). Some people also like to substitute bottled water for tap water. Most bottled water does not have fluoride, but it is difficult to tell because the regulating governmental authority does not require that fluoride be listed on the label.

“So, our recommendation is to ‘Drink more water out of the tap and not the bottle!’ It’s free, affordable and helps fight tooth decay thanks to fluoride.”

For more about bottled water, visit

Interested in Expert opinions on everything from pregnancy and tooth health to the importance of baby teeth? Visit the Ask the Expert tab in the menu.

To see the short, helpful videos on fluoride varnish and toothpaste recommendations, click the Videos tab in the menu.


This Quarter’s Theme: Well-being

Tooth Talk Reveals Sugar’s Secret Identity On Food Labels

What’s in a word? When it’s sugar, the future of a child’s dental health. The 2014 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines advise halving the 2002 dietary recommendation for free sugars from less than 10% of daily calories to 5% (about 6 teaspoons of sugar for the average adult). That’s a big change but it’s the result of America’s growing reliance on packaged and processed foods. The further we move from whole foods, the more vital it is to understand exactly what’s on the ingredient list.

The recommendation comes from research exploring the effect of sugar on tooth decay and weight gain. Free sugars are those added by a manufacturer, cook or user as well as those sugars found naturally in fruit concentrates and juices, syrups and honey. In the spotlight are those hidden sugars in processed foods that are making up more and more of the American diet. For example, a canned soft drink has up to 40 grams of sugar (about 10 teaspoons) and a tablespoon of ketchup contains 4 grams (about 1 teaspoon).

Sugar labeling is crafty and comes with many disguises, so, get savvy: Wkoolaidatch out for these other words for “sugar” on food labels. Remember this red flag: if it has the words “sugar,” “sweetener” or the letters “-ose,” you can bet it’s sugar.

Sugar by any other name, according to and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, confectioner’s powdered sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, fructose, lactose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn sweetener, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar, agave nectar), pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, white granulated sugar, cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice and sucrose.


This Quarter’s Theme: Well-being

Tooth Talk Helps You Improve Communication with Parents

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t communicate them, you won’t get anywhere. The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. Motivational Interviewing, a different way to talk with parents that is collaborative, supportive, respectful and inspiring, helps you share brilliant ideas about kids and healthy teeth.

Want to inspire behavior change in the parents in your program? When talking with parents, remember these Tooth Talk tips:

  • Persuasion, advice and threats don’t work. Avoid being aggressive, loud or combative.
  • Calm open-ended questions and two-way conversation do work.
  • After sharing information, ask, “If you were going to do this, which of the ideas I shared might work best for you?”
  • Pay attention, listen, show understanding and be empathetic. Success comes because of your interpersonal interaction.

To learn more about motivational interviewing and how to help parents improve their children’s dental health, see the video Tooth Talk Moments.

To see other short, helpful videos about tooth topics for tots, click on the Videos tab.




This Quarter’s Theme: Well-being

Tooth Talk Reveals the Shocking Truth Behind Tooth Health Myths

According to a May 2014 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly half  of Americans believe in a medical conspiracy theory, from blaming vaccinations for causing autism to thinking that pharmaceutical companies are blocking FDA release of a cure for cancer. Both are false. However, the research finds that these beliefs can often lead to poor health practices, ultimately affecting overall well-being. Following are some of the top tooth health myths and good answers you can give to parents when they have questions.

MYTH: Fluoride in the public water is a government plot to dispose of industrial waste.

TRUTH: Fluoride is a natural mineral that comes from the element fluorine and is found everywhere on planet Earth. Proven to fight tooth decay, it’s found in soil, water, minerals and foods including seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, tea and gelatin. Research shows that the controlled addition of fluoride to the water supply reduces tooth decay and is fully endorsed by the medical, dental and public health worlds.

MYTH: Pregnancy weakens teeth by taking calcium from them.

TRUTH: According to the HRSA Consensus Report on Oral Health Care for Pregnant Women,   it’s actually the stomach acid from morning sickness that affects teeth, softening tooth enamel. Advise moms not to brush right after vomiting; instead, rinse the mouth with either plain water or water with a teaspoon of baking soda in it. Other changes to the mouth during pregnancy may include puffiness, swelling or possible bleeding of the gums. But, these are also signs of gingivitis. Remind pregnant moms that brushing and flossing as well as regular dental appointments are good not only for their health but also for the baby’s health too.

MYTH: Everyone hates going to the dentist.

TRUTH: Actually, the #1 fear is public speaking (followed by dying!). While most people get nervous about going to the dentist, and as many as 20% won’t go due to that anxiety, very few actually experience true dental phobia. Remind parents that the benefits far outweigh the fear. Good dental health is good for a healthy, confident smile; helps in chewing and speaking properly; and contributes to better overall cardiovascular health, including heart health and possible stroke prevention. Plus, children with healthy teeth do better in school, are free from pain, and eat and sleep better.

How do you think you can make the greatest difference in terms of children’s dental health?  Communicate better? Start a toothbrushing program? Express Your Opinion by clicking here.