The American Dental Association has designated February National Children’s Dental Health Month with the slogan “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile”.
While it’s important to make sure your kids’ teeth are taken care of throughout the year, this is a good time to take stock and take a closer look at your family’s oral health habits.
How to Brush and Floss
While dental visits are crucial, brushing and flossing at home is important for preventing the build up of harmful bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Here are a few tips to ensure your kids’ teeth and gums remain as healthy as possible:
- Teeth should be brushed twice every day for two minutes at a time. Kids under three should use an age-appropriate toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Kids older than three can use a pea-sized dab.
- You, the parent, should brush the teeth of your very young children (though it’s fine to give them a turn too). Older kids can brush themselves, but they should be supervised until they can be trusted to do a thorough job on a consistent basis.
- Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums. Be sure to reach all surfaces of the teeth, including the fronts, chewing surfaces, and backs. And don’t forget the tongue, which can harbor disease- and bad-breath-causing bacteria.
- Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle pressure. Brushing too hard will damage the enamel and gums.
- Once your child has enough teeth that they touch, you should start helping him or her floss once per day. A flosser (a plastic handle with a length of floss strung across it) will make this job easier.
- You can even acclimate baby to an oral health routine before the first teeth appear. Wiping the gums with a soft, wet cloth removes harmful bacteria and will make the transition to toothbrushing a little easier.
For little kids who are less than cooperative, here are a few ways to make oral hygiene a little more fun:
- Toothbrushing songs turn bathroom time into a party. The American Dental Association has even compiled a handy playlist.
- Let your child brush a stuffed animal’s teeth — or even yours!
- A sense of control goes a long way. Allow your child to pick out his or her own toothbrush and toothpaste (as long as it contains fluoride, of course).
- It’s fine to motivate your child with a sticker chart or other (tooth-friendly) reward system.
What Your Kids Eat Matters
Another way to keep your kids’ teeth healthy is by keeping the kitchen stocked with tooth-friendly foods and eliminating some of the worst offenders.
- Cheese sticks are delicious, convenient for lunch boxes, and great for the teeth. Like all dairy products, they are an excellent source for calcium, the mineral that’s so important for tooth strength. Cheese has been shown to raise pH levels in the mouth. This discourages the proliferation of harmful bacteria.
- Apples, carrots, and other crunchy raw fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients. Chewing on them increases saliva flow in the mouth, which helps rinse away food particles and bacteria. Their fiber content stimulates the gums. Even apples, which contain some sugar, are a good thing for your dental health.
- Nuts are a nutritious, low-sugar snack. Because they contain so few carbs, they do not promote bacterial growth.
- Gummy snacks, fruit roll-ups, chewy granola bars, and raisins contain concentrated sugars that get stuck in the grooves of the teeth and are difficult to remove entirely. This feeds bacteria which produce acids that destroy the tooth enamel.
- Soft drinks, juices, and sports drinks are basically vehicles for delivering liquid sugar to your kids’ teeth. It’s a good rule to keep water and milk only in the house. It’s best to drink tap water when possible, as most water supplies are fortified with enamel-strengthening fluoride.
- Munching on crunchy, carby snacks is double trouble for your teeth. Bacteria love carbs, and will multiply like crazy, give off enamel-destroying acids in the process. Plus, snacks that are hard may actually crack or chip your or your child’s teeth. And no pretzel is worth a dental emergency.
It’s National Children’s Dental Health Month now, but it’s important to practice good dental health habits throughout the year. At Davenport Dental Group, we have preventive services for patients of all ages, including children. To book an appointment, fill out our online form or call one of our Laredo, TX offices: Junction Drive at 956-242-6745 or Winfield at 956-517-2695.