Seriously, is there anything cuter than a big smile; a baby’s toothless grin, a little kid’s front-tooth missing smile, a shy tinsel-grin of a tween with braces? Smiles are contagious and universal. Few human actions are as easy or rewarding as a smile.
February is National Children’s Dental Health month. How much time do your kids spend scrubbing with their toothbrushes, flossing their teeth or rinsing after sugary snacks? Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental health problem for young children. Cavities in baby teeth can affect permanent teeth, so it’s best to get a good start when children are young. As they mature, supervise to make sure time and energy is spent taking care of those precious smiles.
Good dental hygiene is important for a number of reasons. The mouth is the first stop in the digestive system. Strong teeth allow for foods to be chewed into digestible pieces. The saliva mixes in and then it’s down the hatch, to the tummy. When teeth are kept plague free, decay is less likely to occur. Plaque is a, sticky, bacteria-filled substance that causes cavities. A bright, shiny smile is the goal!
Tips to Help Your Child Develop Good Dental Health Habits
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush. Brush teeth at least two times a day, morning and before bed. Supervise and help as needed.
- Use fluoride toothpaste for children over two-years of age with no more than a pea-size amount of paste pressed into the bristles of the brush. (Press it in so the paste isn’t rinsed down the drain.) Encourage children not to swallow the paste.
- Use dental floss daily.
- Limit sugar consumption. Check labels, as there’s more sugar in foods than we often realize.
- Raisins, Craisins, gummies, and other sticky treats easily catch between teeth and should be kept to a minimum.
- Have “tooth brush foods” available for snack time: raw carrots, celery, apples, and other healthy snacks with a crunch.
- Water and milk are the best drink options for children. Juice, sports drinks, lemonade, and pop contain sugar and acid that can harm tooth enamel.
- Get in the habit of a quick “swish and swallow” after meals with water to rinse the mouth after meals and snacks, especially sugary or acidic treats.
- Do not share eating utensils, cups, or plates. Germs are easily passed along.
- Schedule a check-up with the dentist at 12-18 months and every six months following for a cleaning and exam. Discuss the options with your child’s pediatrician and dentist.
For those kiddos who are not inclined to brush or just plain don’t like it, try these ideas to change the behavior.
- If your child does not like mint toothpaste, try other flavor.
- Let the child choose a fun toothbrush. Having a princess or a super hero help with the brushing is much more exciting.
- Offer an incentive with a special reward for cooperative behavior. Use a star chart, marbles in jar, or stickers on a calendar to keep track. Rewards can be extra reading time, an outdoor adventure or whatever you and your child decide.
Mom and Dad, be good role models. Talk about the dentist and dental hygienist as friends to help take good care of our smiles. (If you’re afraid of going to the dentist, chances are your child will feel the same.) Brush and floss, stay away from sugary and acidic foods, stop chewing ice, and visit the dentist twice a year to get your own smile checked. May the smiles at your house be healthy and happy!
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
By Becky Danielson
Wife to Scott, mom of two sons
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting
Co-author of Raising Little Kids with Big Love
and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love
both with Study Guides
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