National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and I want to take a moment to talk about this important topic.  Oral health plays a huge role in overall health, but it is unfortunately overlooked on numerous occasions.  Teaching your kids healthy habits from a young age is key in developing a lifelong, healthy lifestyle for them.  Making things like oral health a priority from a young age can set them up for success as they get older. 

Consider these things when it comes to your kid’s oral health:

  • Oral hygiene routine
    • Start with the basics of brushing morning and night and flossing one time daily.
      • Encourage your kids to brush for 2 minutes each time by:
        • Getting them an electric toothbrush that has a 2-minute timer.
        • Using an hour-glass sand timer (these are pretty amusing for kids…I am actually still pretty amused as an adult)
        • Pick a song that they love and play that song every time they brush, making sure they brush for the entire song.  Most songs are about 2 minutes but be sure to time it to ensure it is close to this.
      • Help your kids floss.
        • Most kids will need some assistance with this one, but they have some fun floss pick shapes and designs now, that are more exciting for the kids to use.  Get something that they like and help them floss daily- before bed is the best. 
        • Even if they have spaces between their teeth, they need to floss.  It is as much about developing and encouraging healthy habits from a young age. 
      • Most importantly- get in there and check their work.  I promise, they will not do a perfect job, even if they brush for 10 minutes, they are still kids.  You have to help them out and double check- plaque disclosing tablets and be very helpful for this and pretty fun for a kid.
    • Make this routine fun for them! 
      • Make it a family event, whatever you have to do to make them look forward to it, instead of it being a chore.  Use it as a way to improve your own oral health at the same time!
    • Ask your hygienist if a fluoride rinse is a good option for your kids. 
  • Nutrition and Diet
    • What kind of snacks do your kids eat during the day?
      • Foods like fruit snacks (gummies or ropes), crackers, candies, etc. can all stick in the chewing surfaces of the teeth and increase the likelihood of cavities developing.
      • Include snacks like carrots, celery, and apples.  These foods are actually “self-cleansing” because their crunchy texture can actually clean the teeth to some extent.  Plus, they are packed with healthy nutrients!
      • Include cheese snacks.  Cheeses can neutralize acidity, which may not mean much to you, but cavities form from acidic environments, so this is a good thing!
    • Just because a drink does not have sugar in it, does NOT mean it is good for your teeth.
      • It is not just the sugars that we want to avoid for oral health- it is generally acidity that can damage teeth and cause cavities. So, what does that mean?  Almost anything that is not water probably is not good for your teeth:
        • Lemon water
        • Sparkling water (even without added sugar, yes, even your soda stream)
        • Energy drinks
        • Sodas and diet sodas
        • Kombucha
        • Any carbonated beverages
    • If you have really little ones, NEVER put them to bed with a bottle that has anything other than water. 
      • Early childhood caries or nursing bottle caries is real, and it is devastating!
    • A healthy, balanced diet will not only promote oral health, but overall health as well. 
      • Myplate.gov can be a great resource for kids and families.  Teach your kids healthy habits now, let them help you in the kitchen, and show them the value in being able to cook their own meals.  It will pay off in the long run. 
  • Set a good example
    • If you treat your oral health like a chore and you do not floss your teeth, your kids will notice.  Monkey see, monkey do, so be a good example and make sure your kids know that you are doing all of these things as well.
      • This is why making it a family activity can be beneficial- it will improve everybody’s oral health!
    • This goes for oral health and overall health.
      • Prioritize your health and fitness; cook at home, make time for your workouts, and make sure you are taking care of yourself. When kids see you doing these things, they are much more likely to do these things as they grow up as well!

Obviously, this is not an extensive list of everything you should be doing to promote oral health with your kids, but just a few tips from this dental hygienist.  Ensure that you take your kids to the dentist every 6 months.  Ask your dentist or hygienist when you should start taking them in for visits.  If you are scared of the dentist or have bad experiences, please be mindful of how you relate that your children.  Remember, they are little sponges, so they pick up on EVERYTHING that you say.  If you tell them how horrible you think it is, chances are they are not going to be very receptive to the experience, so, please think about WHAT you are telling them.  Also, give them some space.  Let them go back in the room by themselves (if they are okay with it).  Kids behave very differently when their parents are around, and quite frankly, sometimes they can be much easier for the dental professional to handle if mom or dad is not hovering close by…trust me. 

Just some fuel for thought for everybody, drawing attention to the much-needed issue of oral health.  If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!  And remember, you can’t have a healthy body without a healthy mouth, so let’s teach our kids that from a young age!

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