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National Children's Dental Health Month: Tips for a Healthy Smile

By Becky Danielson
February is typically all about Valentine's Day. But, it's also Dental Health month! Tooth decay is the most prevalent dental health problem for young children. Cavities in baby teeth can affect permanent teeth, so it's best to get a good start when children are young.

Keeping up on good dental hygiene is important for a number of reasons. The mouth is the first stop in the digestive system. Strong teeth allow for foods to be chewed into digestible pieces. The saliva mixes in and then it's down the hatch, to the tummy. When teeth are kept plague free, decay is less likely to occur.  Plaque is a, sticky, bacteria-filled substance that causes cavities. A bright, shiny smile is the goal!

Here are tips to help your child develop good dental health habits.

• Use a soft bristled toothbrush. Brush teeth at least two times a day, morning and before bed. Supervise and help as needed.

• Use fluoride toothpaste for children over two-years of age with no more than a pea-size amount of paste pressed into the bristles of the brush. (Press it in so the paste isn't rinsed down the drain.) Encourage children not to swallow the paste.

• Use dental floss as needed.

• Limit sugar consumption. Check labels, as there's more sugar in our foods than we often realize.

• Raisins, Craisins, gummies, and other sticky treats easily catch between teeth and should be kept to a minimum.

• Have "tooth brush foods" available for snack time: raw carrots, celery, apples, and other healthy snacks with a crunch.

• Water and milk are the best drink options for children. Juice, sports drinks, lemonade, and pop contain sugar and acid that can harm tooth enamel.

• Get in the habit of a quick "swish and swallow" after meals with water to rinse the mouth after meals and snacks.

• Do not share eating utensils, cups, or plates. Germs are easily passed along.

• Schedule a check-up with the dentist at 12-18 months and every six months following for a cleaning and exam. Discuss the options with your child's pediatrician and dentist.

There are children who really do not like to brush their teeth. Try these ideas to change the behavior.

• If your child does not like mint toothpaste, there are a variety of other flavors available.

• Let the child choose a fun toothbrush. Having a princess or a super hero help with the brushing is much more exciting.

• Offer an incentive with a special reward for cooperative behavior. Use a star chart, marbles in jar, or stickers on a calendar to keep track. Rewards can be extra reading time, an outdoor adventure, or a trip to the zoo.

May the smiles at your house be healthy and happy!

Becky Danielson, M.Ed., is wife and mom of two teenagers. She is a licensed Parent & Family Educator and co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. Becky is the co-author of EMPOWERED PARENTS: Putting Faith First. She and her family live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. www.beckydanielson.com & www.1Corinthians13Parenting.com. Back To Top

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