The new year is here folks, and we’re going to start it off right. Dental health and hygiene may not be on your radar for new years’ resolutions, but they should be! Prevention is a major part of happy and healthy smiles for children in your community, and that means more than just regular trips to your pediatric dentist. Here are our top dental health habits just for you!
1. Brush teeth twice per day for two minutes. Mornings before school, and at night before bed are what we aim for. There are fun songs about brushing teeth, or time a song that your little ones enjoy and put it on repeat for two minutes. Brushing teeth should start as soon as the first tooth erupts. Read all about dental care in babies (it actually starts before the eruption) in our guide, ‘Baby Teeth: Eruption Timeline and How to Care for Them‘.
2. Include the tongue as part of brushing. We don’t always consciously think about it, but our tongues actually do quite a bit of work to clear debris between our teeth, and its very presence in the mouth means it is in contact with the same sugars and bacteria as our teeth. Be sure to incorporate a few brush strokes of the tongue into the two minutes. To learn more about how the tongue is a visual indicator of our health, read all about it in our post, ‘Is My Child’s Tongue Healthy?‘
3. Take your child to the store and let them pick out their own toothbrush. Letting them select their toothbrush will give them a sense of responsibility and ownership of their dental health. There are all sorts of fun colors and characters, so let them have some fun with it.
There are electric toothbrushes being marketed for children, however, we encourage you to research a bit before you buy. We wrote a guide for parents about this topic, ‘What’s the Best Electric Toothbrush for Kids?‘, hint (there’s only one on today’s market that has ADA approval).
4. Switch toothbrushes out every three months or sooner if you notice the bristles are worn. With frequent and proper use, those toothbrush bristles will wear out. Bristles that are worn on a toothbrush can actually harm your gums by wearing down the enamel and even causing your gums to recede. Furthermore, the fact is, worn-out bristles simply don’t clean properly. They bend away from the surface instead of stretching into the nooks and crannies of the teeth and in between.
Nevertheless, even if the bristles don’t look worn out, you need to replace it on a three-month timeline. Why? Take a look at your broom and you’ll likely notice a buildup of dust or debris on those bristles. Imagine a toothbrush to be similar to a broom. Its job is to brush away bacteria and debris on your teeth. While proper care of your toothbrush means food debris isn’t likely present, over time invisible bacteria will still build up on those bristles. For more information about proper care of your toothbrush, check out our in-depth article: “Toothbrush Care Guide: Everything Parents Need to Know”.
5. Floss at least once a day. Most parents who bring their kids into our offices will agree with our twice a day tooth brushing recommendation, and back it up by their actions. However, it isn’t uncommon to have a parent sheepishly admit that they don’t floss as often as they should. We aren’t here to shame anyone in regard to their dental habits. Odds are high that the parents who don’t floss very often, simply didn’t grow up flossing! Habits that we learn as children can stick with us throughout adulthood! Start out encouraging your kids to floss, and join them yourself. You are never too old to learn new healthy habits, and flossing is one that is a positive habit for everyone. Check out new and interesting flavors, (remember to look for the ADA seal).
6. Invest in a mouth guard for sports. Mouth injuries happen to kids, even if they aren’t playing a contact sport such as football. We recommend mouth guards should be worn for all sports, including biking and skateboarding. Studies show that wearing a mouth guard will lessen the likelihood of dentofacial injuries by more than 82%. A broken or chipped tooth, a root fracture, or a tooth knocked loose or all the way out is considered a dental emergency. Read our step-by-step guide on what to do in that type of situation to prepare yourself, ‘What Do You Do When Your Kid Breaks a Tooth?‘
7. Up your water intake! Most store-bought beverages have a shocking amount of sugar in them (or sugar substitutes) that might be tasty but are terrible for our teeth. It’s unfair to ask anyone to give up all other drinks, but we do think it’s fair to encourage you to increase the amount of water you and your kids are drinking. City water is treated with fluoride which is a vital defense for teeth. Furthermore, water will help rinse away bacteria and sugars from your meals and snacks in between your brushing routine. One way to facilitate more water throughout the day is utilizing a refillable water bottle and taking it with you on errands, and sending it in backpacks to school. When water is within easy reach, your kids are more likely to drink more of it.
It’s never too late to prioritize the dental health of your children (and yourself!) All of the above tips for healthy habits can be applied to each member of your family, regardless of age. Utilize those dental benefits on your insurance this year, and start out by scheduling a checkup and dental cleaning for each of your kids. Preventative care is the bedrock of happy healthy smiles in our community. Give us a call, and we’ll help you start the year of dental strong.