What Is a Healthy Diet for My Child

A healthy diet is a balanced diet that naturally supplies all the nutrients your child needs to grow. A balanced diet is one that includes the following major food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Meat & Beans, and Milk.

How does my child’s diet affect their dental health?

They must have a balanced diet for their teeth to develop properly. They also need a balanced diet for healthy gum tissue around the teeth. Equally important, a diet high in certain kinds of carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches, may place your child at extra risk for tooth decay.

How do I make my child’s diet safe for their teeth?

First, be sure they have a balanced diet. Then, check how frequently they eat foods with sugar or starch in them. Foods with starch include breads, crackers, pasta and snacks, such as pretzels and potato chips. When checking for sugar, look beyond the sugar bowl and candy dish. A variety of foods contain one or more types of sugar, and all types of sugars can promote dental decay. Fruits, a few vegetables, and most milk products have at least one type of sugar.

Sugar can be found in many processed foods, even some that do not taste sweet. For example, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich not only has sugar in the jelly, but may have sugar added to the peanut butter. Sugar is also added to such condiments as ketchup and salad dressings.

Should my child give up all foods with sugar or starch?

Certainly not! Many of these foods provide nutrients your child needs. You simply need to select and serve them wisely. A food with sugar or starch is safer for teeth if it is eaten with a meal, not as a snack. Sticky foods, such as dried fruit or toffee, are not easily washed away from the teeth by saliva, water or milk. Therefore, they have more cavity-causing potential than foods more rapidly cleared from the teeth. Talk to your pediatric dentist about selecting and serving foods that protect your child’s dental health.

Does a balanced diet assure that my child is getting enough fluoride?

No. A balanced diet does not guarantee the proper amount of fluoride for the development and maintenance of your child’s teeth. If you do not live in a fluoridated community or have an ideal amount of naturally occurring fluoride in your well water, your child may need a fluoride supplement during the years of tooth development. Your pediatric dentist can help assess how much supplemental fluoride your child needs, based upon the amount of fluoride in your drinking water and other potential sources of fluoride.

My youngest is not on solid foods yet. Do you have any suggestions for him?

Do not nurse a young child to sleep or put him to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, juice or sweetened liquid. While a child sleeps, any unswallowed liquid in the mouth feeds bacteria that produce acids and attack the teeth. Protect your child from severe tooth decay by putting him to bed with nothing more than a pacifier or bottle of water.

Any final advice?

Yes, here are some tips for your child’s diet and dental health:

1. Ask your pediatric dentist to help you assess your child’s diet.

2. Shop smart! Do not routinely stock your pantry with sugary or starchy snacks. Buy fun foods just for special times.

3. Limit the number of snack times; choose nutritious snacks.

4. Provide a balanced diet, and save foods with sugar or starch for meal times.

5. Do not put your young child to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice.

6. If your child chews gum or sips soda, choose those without sugar.

-Information provided by the AAPD


Thumb Finger and Pacifier Habits

Why do children suck on fingers, pacifiers or other objects?

This type of sucking is completely normal for babies and young children. It provides security. For young babies, it is a way to make contact with and learn about the world. In fact, babies begin to suck on their fingers or thumbs even before they are born.

Are these habits bad for the teeth and jaws?

Most children stop sucking on thumbs, pacifiers or other objects on their own between 2 and 4 years of age. However, some children continue these habits over long periods of time. In these children, the upper front teeth may tip toward the lip or not come in properly. Frequent or intense habits over a prolonged period of time can affect the way the child’s teeth bite together, as well as the growth of the jaws and bones that support the teeth.

When should I worry about a sucking habit?

Your pediatric dentist will carefully watch the way your child’s teeth erupt and jaws develop, keeping the sucking habit in mind at all times. Because persistent habits may cause long term problems, intervention may be recommended for children beyond 3 years of age.

What can I do to stop my child’s habit?

Most children stop sucking habits on their own, but some children need the help of their parents and their pediatric dentist. When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, your pediatric dentist can encourage your child to stop, as well as talk about what happens to the teeth and jaws if your child does not stop. This advice, coupled with support from parents, helps most children quit. If this approach does not work, your pediatric dentist may recommend ways to change the behavior, including a mouth appliance that interferes with sucking habits.

Are pacifiers a safer habit for the teeth than thumbs or fingers?

Thumb, finger and pacifier sucking affect the teeth and jaws in essentially the same way. However, a pacifier habit often is easier to break.

Information from The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)


Recommended Baby Bottles

There have been several reports about certain plastics used in baby bottle products, especially polycarbonate. There have been several tests, which have replicated a procedure used by the FDA, to show that this clear, hard, shiny plastic leeched small amounts of chemical called Bisphenol-A, when exposed to temperatures similar to boiling waters.

It has been known for an extended period of time, that large doses of Bisphenol-A have produces adverse effects in lab animals. Therefore, as a precaution, this office advises avoiding polycarbonate baby bottles until more information is known about their possible effects on infants.

The recommended infant bottles are basically in three different categories:

1. The disposable systems, that are comprised of plastic holders and liners made of polyethylene, a non-polycarbonate plastic.

2. Bottles made from non-polycarbonate plastic.

3. Bottles made from glass.

The disposable systems encompass several commercial varieties, which include models from Playtex and Avent.

The bottles made from non-polycarbonate plastic include models by Evenflo, Pastel Nurser, and Gerber.

Glass bottles were manufactures by Evenflo, although one must realize the risk of harm if a glass baby bottle fractures.

If you have any questions about a bottle that is not listed, this office recommends calling the manufacturer using the phone number  on the package to check it’s composition.


The Six Most Common Myths About Tooth Decay

Myth 1: “Fluoridated water solves all the problems.”

This phrase is categorically not true.  While fluoride in the water system has dramatically decreased the number of cavities in people over the last decade (down 50%), that still means that almost half the United States population is suffering from regular decay of their teeth.  The very specific reasons for this are that only half the cities in the United States fluoridate their water!  This is correct-only half!  If you are fortunate, you live in a city that does.  Even so, there may not be enough fluoride in the water to completely eradicate dental decay.  And let’s be honest, most people can’t stand the taste of common tap water and turn to other sources such as reverse osmosis or bottled water.  The reverse osmosis systems remove any fluoride ions in the city water and therefor negate the benefit.  And of course, bottled water should always be fluoridated.

Myth 2: “My dental insurance carrier says I only need two cleaning per year.”

Of course, corporate health care companies say that for the basic reason that this is all they want to pay for!  Yet, every situation is different and individualized.  It you regularly brush your teeth correctly and floss properly, then perhaps only two hygiene cleanings per year is enough.  Some of my young adult patients come in every 90 days, especially if they have orthodontic appliances.  These patients know how important it is to come back every three months, even if the hygiene appointments are not covered by their insurance plan.

Myth 3: “I brush, floss, and use mouthwash correctly. I have no problem.”

Are you sure?  Do you switch your toothbrush every 30-45 days like you should?  After all, you are leaving bacteria on the brush bristles no matter how well you clean it.  It is a good idea to change brushes regularly.  Please do not forget to throw out the old one.  By the way, are you using a new piece of dental floss for the upper teeth and the lower teeth, and moving your floss so you don’t use the same section you used to clean any non-clean area?  (This technique only moves the plaque and bacteria to another area.)  Finally, what about the mouthwash?  Most over the counter mouthwashes are made with alcohol which dries the mouth, making a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.  Far better advice is to utilize a fluoride rinse and use it regularly.

Myth 4: “All dentists are alike and have the same procedures and treatments.”

I am proud of the dental profession, however, not every dentist is up-to-date on all the modern techniques, procedures, and products available.  It is impossible, quite frankly, to keep up with everything.  Therefore, I suggest you ask your dentist what new treatments he or she recommends for your particular problem or your child’s particular problem.  Also ask when this procedure was first introduced into dentistry. This way, you can feel confident knowing that you made the right choice in dentists.

Myth 5: “All the fillings that you had as a youngster or young adult are totally sealing your teeth against future bacterial invasion.”

Again, this phrase is 99% wrong.  Many restorations that were performed from 1966 to 1976 are inferior compared to today’s standards.  It is an excellent idea to have a full-mouth checkup to see if there are any problems with previously restored restoration.

Myth 6: “No matter what I do, I’ll never stop all the sources of decay from attacking my teeth.”

This phrase is true and false.  My interpretation of this phrase is that the sources may attack but they will, in fact, lose the war.  You see, with new techniques and products, it is possible to seal your teeth with a process that guards against bacterial infection, and of course, this is the ultimate sealant.


Soft Drinks the Beverage of Choice for Teens

In prior generations, soft drinks, soda pop, colas-whatever you called them-were reserved for a treat. In today’s society, this is not the case for teenagers. They cannot escape the onslaught of a $60 billion-a-year marketing campaign, soft drink machines everywhere, and consumption messages that entice an impelled value in their consumption. Many schools across the United States and Canada have placed soft drink machines near their cafeterias as a drink alternative to wholesome dairy products. True, many contain fruit juices fortified with vitamins…and sugar.

Schools have succumed to this for the added revenue and due to teen demand. The machines outside the locked lunchrooms assure access by the students before and after school classes. This had made these sugar and acid containing beverages the drink of choice. Remember when the water fountain was the only choice?

Soft drinks by teens have increased 1100% over the past 20 years. Dairy purchases by teens have decreased by 30% over the same time.

While the largest risk of consuming too many soft drinks is still tooth decay, we are now learning that osteoporosis, obesity, and diabetes also head the list of concerns to a teenager’s fast-paced lifestyle. Fifteen percent of American adolescents, ages 6 to 19, are overweight. Being overweight puts teens at an increased risk of hypertension and elevated cholesterol leading to heart disease, type II diabetes, osteoporosis and tooth erosion. This is an important link between one’s oral condition and one’s overall health.

Check this out yourself. Read the ingredients on the soft drink cans. Coke contains high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, phosphoric acid, and caffeine. Dr. Pepper has the same contents. Pepsi’s Mist also has citric acid, potassium citrate, ascorbic acid, and calcium disodium EDTA. Coke’s Sprite has high fructose corn syrup and/or, citric acid and sodium citrate. 7 Up’s Hawaiian Punch contains less than 2% juice but high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, ascorbic acid and sugar.”

Several parent organizations have begun to realize that such availability of these products means less control they have over a child’s nutritional diet. Their ready availability at institutions of learning gives an impelled approval. Even competition to the school’s own cafeteria’s planned food offerings by their dietitians. These parent groups are demanding the removal of such machines from their areas schools with some success.

– Article by the American Academy of General Dentistry


Infant Care Caries Disease

It should also be understood that caries is an infectious disease that may be transmitted from one person to another. this is exemplified by the fact that mothers with a high caries risk or experience harbor substantial numbers of mutan streptococci and lactobacilli in oral cavities and saliva. Within a short time after eruption of the primary teeth in their infants, these caries-prone mothers transmit cariogenic bacteria to their young children, leading to increased caries susceptibility.


What is Dental Decay

Dental decay is a bacterially based disease that progresses when acid produced by bacterial action on dietary fermentable carbohydrates diffuse into the tooth and demineralizes the carbonated hydrocyapatite mineral.

Pathological factors, including acidogenic bacteria, salivary dysfunction, and dietary carbohydrates are related to decay progression.

Protective factors, which include antibacterials, salivary calcium, phosphate and proteins, salivary flow, and fluorides in saliva can balance, prevent, or reverse dental decay.


What is Chlorhexidine Gloconate Oral Rinse

Those individuals most prone to caries development typically have high mutan streptococci and lactobacilli salivary levels, low salivary buffering capacity, decreased saturation of plaque and saliva with respect to calcium and phosphate, low fluoride levels in the plaque and saliva, and a high sucrose diet with frequent carbohydrate exposure. The most effective means of caries control in these individuals is removal of dental plaque using mechanical means (tooth-brushing and flossing) with the addition of topical fluoride agents to enhance remineralization of demineralized enamel and antimicrobial (oral rinse) to limit cariogenic bacterial growth.

The Dangers of Oral Piercing

One of the more dangerous fads popular today among teens and young adults is oral piercing studs through the tongue and rings through the lips. This type of fashion statement can lead to serious health problems.

The human mouth is filled with germs and bacteria. These can easily pass into the bloodstream via the holes created by these piercings, leading to infection at the site of the hole, and throughout the body. To make matters worse, the conditions under which some of the oral piercings occur aren’t sanitary, also inviting infection. The National Institutes of Health identified piercing as a possible route for hepatitis transmission.

Besides infection, other problems include metal allergy, excessive bleeding during or after the piercing, or breathing problems if the ornament is swallowed.

On top of these medical dangers, the stud or ring itself may crack or damage the teeth and injure sensitive gum tissue. This can require extensive and expensive dental treatment. One study found 50% of people wearing a long barbell (more than 1.59 cm) stem piercing in their tongue for more than two years had gums pull away from the inside of their lower front teeth. Almost half of those wearing the piercing for more than four years had chipped their back teeth.

Having a foreign body through the tongue can also adversely affect the swallowing mechanism, a major part of the digestive system. Plus, it can interfere  with speaking ability.

With all these dangers to consider, we don’t recommend oral piercing for any of our patients.

What Type of Toothpaste Should My Child Use?

Tooth brushing is one of the most important tasks for good oral health. Many toothpastes, and/or tooth polishes, however, can damage young smiles. They contain harsh abrasives which can wear away young tooth enamel. When looking for a toothpaste for your child make sure to pick one that is recommended by the American Dental Association. These toothpastes have undergone testing to ensure they are safe to use. Some alternatives to the standard toothpaste brands include Tom’s of Maine and the Trader Joe’s branded toothpaste. No matter what brand you choose remember to check the label to make sure it includes fluoride.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) guidelines state that a smear or grain of rice size of toothpaste can be used on children younger than age 2. A smear means just the tips of the toothbrush bristles have toothpaste on them and the toothpaste does not penetrate the bristles. Once children reach age 3, a pea-sized dab can be used.

Remember, children should spit out toothpaste after brushing to avoid getting too much fluoride. If too much fluoride is ingested, a condition known as fluorosis can occur(we will talk about this condition in another post). For children who are younger than 2 we significantly reduce the chance of fluorosis by using the smallest amount necessary to reap the benefits of fluoride.

A good oral hygiene routine is essential for dental health. Starting early and getting your child interested in taking care of themselves will pay off in the long run.

If your child has some sensitivities to certain toothpastes you should try Hello brand toothpastes. They are free of dyes , SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) and use xylitol instead of sugar to sweeten the toothpaste.


Let’s Talk Hydration With Dr. Vik Tiku of San Luis Obispo Pediatric Dentistry

water glasses.jpg

We know that staying hydrated is an important part of day to day health, but it can also have a big impact on your kids’ oral health. The amount of water your children are drinking can sometimes be difficult to determine; especially if they’re at school all day, or if they’re not old enough to communicate their thirst. In today’s post we’ll talk about why water is important for oral health, how to try and keep track of the amount of water your kids are drinking, and ways to encourage more water consumption.


Mouths are happiest when they are hydrated. Drinking water not only washes away harmful bacteria and pieces of food, but it also helps your body create saliva. Saliva is our body’s way of washing away all of the things that are harmful to our teeth and gums, and we need adequate water to make enough saliva! So not only does water lend a helping hand with doing saliva’s job, it gives your body a tool it needs to create it.


Keeping track of the amount of water your kiddo is drinking can be tricky, especially if they’re at school. We recommend having a designated water bottle for each of your kids that you fill before they go to school, and when they come home from school. Making them a part of picking out their reusable water bottle can be a fun way to involve them in the mission to drink more water. Choose one that is insulated, BPA free, and has a sturdy lid. Dr. Tiku likes the HydraFlask water bottle for his daily dose of hydration! He bought his at SLO Bike and Run.


A fun way to encourage kids to drink more water instead of sugary drinks is to add fruit! Adding fruit to your water is a great way to add flavor, without adding too much sugar. Take your family to the SLO Farmers Market and let them choose their favorites! We recommend making a big batch of fruit flavored water, letting it sit for a bit (you can even mash the fruit a bit to get more flavor) and pouring the infused water (not the fruit) into your water bottles. Putting fruit directly into the water bottles can make it tricky to drink, as bits of fruit can block the openings we drink out of. Having a large glass drink dispenser on your counter can also be a pretty addition to your kitchen, and is a good visual reminder for everyone in the family to take sips more often.


Lastly, be sure to lead by example! Your kids will be much better water drinkers if they’re seeing it modeled by their parents. Put down the diet soda, and pick up your water bottle. Tell us, do you have a water bottle you love?



Let’s Talk Nutrition with Dr. Vik Tiku of SLO Pediatric Dental

In today’s blog post we’re going to talk about WHY.

You might be wondering, as dentists, why we do things like post recipes. And the answer is; we want to be so much more than the best dentists in San Luis Obispo! We want to make our community a better and healthier place in all ways, not just in ways having to do with clean teeth! We also want to help make parents’ jobs easier with things like our tooth brushing charts, and recipes.

We also know that healthy teeth and gums come not only from brushing, flossing, and visiting Treehouse Pediatric Dentistry, but from the inside! What you put on your family’s dinner table has a big impact on their dental health. BUT WHY?! Let’s talk about it.

Fruit and vegetables have important vitamins and minerals that keep our bodies going. Here are some of the most important components of the produce rainbow so that the next time your kids ask you WHY they have to eat their vegetables, you’ll have something more to say than, ‘because I said so.’

CALCIUM: Calcium not only builds strong bones and teeth, but helps your blood clot, and your muscles contract. Calcium can be found in oranges, tangerines, dried apricots, broccoli, kale, kiwi, dates, and plums.

VITAMIN C: Vitamin C helps repair tissue, and build collagen. Collagen is needed for making ligaments, blood vessels, skin, cartilage, and ligaments. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruit, strawberries, bell peppers, papaya, mango, brussels sprouts, and blueberries.

IRON: Iron is needed for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs, to other parts of your body.  Iron can be found in pumpkin, spinach, and broccoli.

VITAMIN A: Vitamin A is important for vision, the immune system, and the reproductive system. It also helps the heart, lung, and kidneys work the right way. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, sweet potato, and winter squash.

B2: Vitamin B2 breaks down fat, carbohydrates, and protein and turns it into energy that our body can use.  B2 can be found in spinach, soy beans, and asparagus.

B3: B3 is good for your skin, digestive system, and nervous system. It also helps balance cholesterol levels. B3 can be found in tomato, avocado, and peas.

We love seeing your healthy smiles in our office, and we hope that this post helps get at least one more fruit or vegetable into the rotation at your house.


Let’s Talk Tooth Fairy with Dr. Vik Tiku of SLO Pediatric Dentistry in San Luis Obispo, CA

Our book review last month of, ‘Throw Your Tooth on the Roof,’ got us thinking about teeth traditions, and how they started. Here’s a bit of what we found;

The earliest Norse writing called, ‘The Eddas,’ contain record of a tradition called, ‘tand-fe,’ or tooth-fee. For the first baby tooth lost, a child was given payment in exchange for the tooth. It was then worn around the necks of warriors headed into battle to bring them luck. This is likely the origin of the tooth fairy tradition in the United States.

It seems that matter where in the world you go, there is a tradition associated with children losing their teeth. What a neat connection between different countries and cultures. So let’s take a little trip from our pediatric dental office in San Luis Obispo, to India where kids bury their teeth under a big tree in their neighborhood. Do you think the city of San Luis Obispo would mind all of our kids burying their teeth at Laguna Lake Park?

One of the most common myths across many cultures is that of either a rat or a mouse coming to collect your child’s tooth. This is probably because rodent teeth don’t stop growing, and we want adult teeth to grow? In some hispanic cultures, he’s called, ‘Ratoncito Perez.’ Kids leave their tooth under their pillow, and he brings them a gift.  In Italy, a tiny mouse called, ‘Topocino,’ does the job. In Scotland, France, and Belgium, a fairy mouse visits when a baby tooth is lost.

In a 2013 survey conducted by Visa, it was found that $3.70 is the average payment per tooth in the United States. Is that more or less than what the tooth fairy is bringing to your house? Dr. Tiku wants to know! What are the kids in San Luis Obispo getting for their teeth?

The idea of the tooth fairy is a great way to encourage your littles to take more care when brushing and flossing. Knowing that the tooth fairy values healthy teeth more than those with cavities can persuade sleepy brushers into another minute of teeth cleaning.

One of our favorite things to listen to at SLO Pediatric Dentistry is This American Life. The tooth fairy themed prologue to their kid logic episode is hilarious. A warning though, this episode could ruin the tooth fairy magic for your kids, so listen to it alone.

If you want to add a little more magic to your kids tooth fairy experience, try writing a note from the tooth fairy that praises your kiddos for their good tooth brushing skills (or, points out room for improvement). You could also sprinkle a little bit of glitter on the window sill where the tooth fairy came in and out of the room, or use some glitter glue on the money the tooth fairy left. Just make sure you let it dry completely before putting it under the pillow. Do you have any fun tooth fairy traditions? We’d love to hear about them!