February is National Children's Dental Health Month!
In honor of this, I would like to focus this blog entry on children's dental education. Or, more specifically, what you can do to help educate your kids.
The American Dental Association (ADA) establised this month-long national observance in order to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
Here are some tips on establishing good dental practices for your children:
1. Start off at a young age. Many do not realize even babies are at risk for tooth decay. The risk of tooth decay begins as soon as a child gets their first tooth. Do not let young children go to bed with a bottle or sippy cup that allows them to continually sip. (There are sippy or training cups that have a valve that stops the flow, which does not allow for sipping or spilling.)
Also, you can get children used to the feel of a toothbrush in their mouths by softly brushing what few teeth they have. (Make sure that the toothbrush is an appropriate size and has soft bristles.) This not only helps them feel more comfortable when brushing their teeth later but also helps them with future appointments with the dentist.
2. Stick to a schedule. This will help you and your kids. They need to brush their teeth for 2 minutes, 2 times a day and floss 2 times a day. Get on a schedule for the morning and nighttime routines. For example, the kids get up, dressed, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth before heading off for school. Or, the kids put on their pajamas and brush their teeth before going to bed. If it takes 20 days for a habit to form, then be sure to really stick to this regiment for those first couple weeks.
3. Go to the dentist. By a child's first birthday, he/she should see the dentist. However, children can see a dentist as soon as they begin to get their first teeth. Even though there may not be many teeth to clean, regular appointments to the dentist will ensure that teeth are growing well.
If your child is nervous, anxious, or even fearful of a visit to the dentist, keep your cool. Try not to add fears. Instead, ecourage him/her to discuss any of these negative feelings. A good rule of thumb is to not mention words like "hurt" or "pain" in association with the dentist. And remember - the staff at Hintz Family Dentistry is trained for children of all ages!
The ADA has a great resource available on their website, called Mouth Healthy Kids, that is an electronic story book called Vist the Dentist with Marty. Your child can read (and listen, as there is a read-along capability) this book online to help prepare for the dentist visit. Check out this storybook and other awesome resources at the ADA website for kids: http://www.mouthhealthykids.org/en/.
In the end, make sure the going to the dentist is not a punishment.
4. Make brushing a positive experience. If you make a child's burshing experience negative, why would the child ever want to brush? One way to make it positive is by using a brush that plays a song for 2 minutes (the length of time that you need to brush). Be careful not to say things like "If you don't brush, you will have to go to the dentist and get your teeth pulled." This will likely create anxiety towards brushing as well as the dentist.
5. Lead by example. Whether you notice or not, your kids are watching you - constantly! Use these times to show and teach them important things, including good dental practices. You need to make your dental health just as important as theirs.
Floss twice a day, brush yo