February: National Children’s Dental Health Month

Encourage brushing and flossing by creating a routine which is convenient for the family.

This year’s theme is “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile.” I agree, however, “smile,” is only skin deep, and perhaps an overall emphasis for oral health could be “healthy,” period!! As everyone deserves good looking teeth so they’re not self-conscious when they smile, I’ll save the smile part for another blog and focus on kids here. Although, I think kids and their parents could benefit from, “Brush and clean in between to build a healthy smile for a healthy body.

As I mentioned in Don’t Brush Your Tongue, it’s crucial children are taught early correct approaches when they’re young, as beliefs and habits are hard to reform when they become adults. Children can one hundred percent understand the concept of keeping their mouth clean means more than a healthy smile. Brushing and flossing are one of the very first healthcare habits kids can master and it’s the gateway to their taking responsibility for their overall health. Parents have the opportunity to praise their kids for this accomplishment, and to emphasize their good habits will lead to a healthy body when they’re older.

Note: The child on the left of the above image probably lost his teeth from “baby bottle syndrome,” which is when children are given either milk or fruit juice to sip on through the night. Only put water in a bottle for long term sipping.

Oral health maintenance begins with kids observing the habits of their parents as role models. As for me, having a kid was a time for self-reflection and for re-evaluation of what was important to me. If you focus on setting an example, your oral health habits can potentially improve as you teach your kids good habits.

Creating a routine is crucial to good oral health care, so try to be consistent by choosing the most convenient and realistic time for your family. For example, there might be too much going on right before bed in your house, so choose to floss and brush right after dinner.

When my daughter was young we only had one bathroom and it was easy for everyone to clean our teeth together, so choose one bathroom for family teeth care, as I think it’s necessary for kids to observe their parents doing the very same thing expected of them.

Children’s Oral Care Routine

Floss first: Some kids are fortunate enough to have plenty of spacing in between their teeth where they’re not really in contact which is a great decay preventer. While you floss, let your child try to floss their own teeth with either a flosser or string floss. Then, you let them know you will help them to get whatever else is stuck in between and floss for them.

Brush second: Ideally, if parents are using battery brushes, then their kids should be as well, so there’s no discrepancy or confusion, but manual brushes are fine. While you brush allow your kids to brush their own teeth, emphasize two minutes and stick to it. Then, let them know you want to be sure they got all the plaque bugs out and brush for them, which can be shorter than two minutes. For tips on toothpaste see my blog, Children And Too Much Toothpaste.

Scrape third: Please don’t teach your kids to brush their tongues! Tongue scraping is the proper way to clean a tongue, and it only needs to be done a few times a week. There are small sizes available for kids, or adjustable scrapers. See my blog, Don’t Brush Your Tongue

Children’s flossing and brushing should be supervised up until at least 6 years of age until you are positive of their techniques. Supervision can be weaned slowly to the point of your own child’s maturity level.

Note: You can purchase a mouth mirror in any dental section, which is fun for kids. I think it’s important to examine your kids teeth about once a month. Primary teeth (baby teeth) enamel is much softer than permanent teeth and decay can spread quickly. If you’ve been observing your child’s teeth all along it should be fairly easy to recognize a brown spot or a change in the enamel.

Author: Cari

Cari has been a practicing dental hygienist for over 30 years. She received her degree with honors and was selected for a rare internship at Eastman Dental School, Rochester, NY. She then went on to receive a BS in Social Work from Nazareth College, cum laude. She has practiced in a variety of offices in Santa Fe for almost 25 years, with dental hygiene experience that has spanned from public health to holistic private practice, to specializing in dental phobic patients. Her commitment to research with a life-long desire to learn is combined with her genuine drive to provide patients with a whole health knowledge base. Cari also brings her experience as a published writer to her role as an oral health blogger. She has written blogs and web pages for Beyond Borders Dental in her role as Director of Dental Relations and Education.

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