I always found it interesting that Dental Health Month coincided with one of the sugary-est events of the year – Valentine’s Day. As we approach the Day O’ Love at the end of this week, we should also use this time to teach and reinforce good dental health habits with our children.
- Start with the source – give your pantry and your refrigerator a makeover! Have your child(ren) help you move healthier food choices to the front (and lower for smaller, searching eyes) of the pantry and fridge. Make healthy choices, such as cheese, fruits, vegetables and whole grain snacks, readily available for little hands.
- Switch away from sodas – work on making mouth-healthy drink choices, such as milk and water instead of fruit juices and sodas. Making the same choices yourself sets a strong example for your children, too.
- Make a dental appointment. If your child hasn’t been to a dentist, definitely make an appointment to do so. Don’t know who to see? Ask around! Ask friends, neighbors with children and even that mom you see across the grocery store with her own kids for recommendations of pediatric dentists. Our dentist is great with kids and supplies us with floss, brushes, toothpaste and even a toy when we’re done.
- Brushing twice a day – make a chart for brushing teeth twice a day if this is difficult to remember. Always brush teeth in the morning and before bed. With smaller children, have them “help” with teeth-brushing, but closely supervise and step in to make sure all of their teeth are getting well-brushed. While small children still have “baby teeth”, problems like cavities can be devastating to the adult teeth below the surface as well.
- Floss – teaching my own boys about flossing was much easier than I realized. I invested in a hand mirror and had them lie down on the couch while I sat next to their head. My boys would hold the mirror so they could see what I was doing while I quickly ran floss around their teeth (baby teeth tend to be spaced out quite a bit, but flossing at an early age builds good dental hygiene further down the road).
- For older kids, consider a model for them to explore and study, such as the Bio Signs Human Anatomy Models: Teeth and Gums. Reasonably priced, they provide a detailed model of teeth and gums as well as a discussion guide.