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Need to Get Through to Your Pediatric Patients? Try the Oreo Test

Two Sandwich Cookies
Michael Burrell / iStock / Getty Images Plus

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and there’s no better time to shine a spotlight on caries, which is one of the most prevalent childhood diseases in the United States. Caries can severely impact childhood development in multiple ways. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in five children ages 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Kids who come from low-income families are twice as likely to experience caries as those from families with higher incomes.1

But while caries can be a devastating disease, it is preventable. Fluoride varnishes are said to prevent around 33% of caries in primary teeth. And for kids living in communities with fluoridated tap water, that percentage may drop even further. Also, children who brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste stand to benefit immensely.1 

Numerous kid-friendly products, ranging from toothbrushes featuring colorful cartoon characters, handles ergonomically shaped for tiny hands, and those that play music and otherwise engage children, are available. 

Nevertheless, it can still be a challenge to get young kids to thoroughly brush their teeth, cleaning all the surfaces. So, it behooves those interested in their oral health to use whatever tool they can to encourage good habits. 


According to Elise W. Sarvas, DDS, MSD, MPH, a clinical associate professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Minnesota, while it may be counterintuitive, feeding your child an Oreo cookie might just do the trick in getting them to learn good brushing habits.2

Sarvas explains that the Oreo cookie test works partly because, well, children like cookies, but when they brush their teeth after consuming one of the frosting-filled delights, the dark brown cookie dust that will undoubtedly remain on their teeth will show them, and their parents, exactly where they’ve missed.2


The cookie test is just one of a plethora of strategies that parents can employ to help their kids up their toothbrushing game. The CDC offers an activity book called Take Care of Your Teeth that provides an interactive method to teach good oral health habits to children ages 3 to 8.1 Click here to view.

In addition, Sarvas notes other ways parents can help protect their kids from developing caries, such as ensuring they have access to healthy snacks including fresh fruits and vegetables, deli meats, and cheeses. She also notes children should not drink more than 4 ounces of juice per day.2

Sarvas points out the fact that young children are still developing motor skills and may truly struggle with brushing techniques. She suggests that until children can tie their own shoes, they probably need good parental or caregiver supervision. She also recommends soft bristles, a manual toothbrush unless a child is comfortable with an electric one, and twice-a-day brushing with a fluoride toothpaste in a flavor that the child likes.2

Sarvas advocates getting kids off to a good start by the age of one with a trip to the dentist to assess growth and development. Establishing a dental home at such an early age gives kids a fighting chance against caries.2


  1. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s Oral Health. Click here.
  2. Health Day News. The ‘Oreo Test’ and Other Ways to Help Kids’ Oral Health. Michael, please make the link live. Click here.
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