We all know how it goes: everyone leads busy lives, we have drama, we have events that take us away from routine. We try to build good habits in our children but get pulled off the track and distracted from what we meant to do. In other cases, we were not aware that there was something we should be doing. One thing that unfortunately often falls into this category is taking care of our children’s dental health.
If you haven’t already taken your child to the dentist, now is the time. Your family dentist might be the best choice, or she may recommend a pediatric dentist. Prepare your child for a visit to the dentist by playing dentist at home using dolls or stuffed animals several times in the days before the visit. Have the child practice, through play, sitting still while keeping his mouth open and allowing the dentist to put tools inside of the patient’s mouth.
Another thing that might surprise most parents is that the American Dental Association (ADA) advises that children through age 6 need adult help when brushing their teeth. They say that if your child cannot tie his own shoes then he probably does not have the manual dexterity needed to clean his own teeth. They recommend that the adult stand behind the child and hold the brush while looking in the mirror and brushing.
In addition to brushing, children need to floss. In fact, flossing is recommended from the time a child has two teeth next to each other. Just like brushing, it takes adult help until the child is old enough to do this on his own. The old joke goes: “Do I need to floss all my teeth?” with the reply being, “No, only the ones you want to keep.”
People sometimes wonder why all the fuss over baby teeth, if they only fall out and are replaced anyway. Baby teeth can become decayed, which leads to pain and can cause serious, even life-threatening infections. Baby teeth that rot come out too soon, and can leave uneven gaps that prevent adult teeth from coming in properly. In the long run, caring for baby teeth protects your child’s health and your pocket book.
Healthy diets, avoidance of surgery snacks and juices improve dental health as well. The ADA also recommends that sweets are best served after mealtime because the mouth makes more saliva to help rinse out food particles. They also advise against constant snacking, even on healthy foods, because snacking keeps the teeth constantly exposed to teeth-destroying acid.
Proper brushing, flossing, and dental visits are necessary for good dental hygiene. A healthy diet and avoiding sugary foods are equally important in the defense against tooth decay. Taking care of your child’s dental health is important to his overall wellbeing. If you haven’t been doing this all along, today is a good day to start.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.