Good dental hygiene is an important issue for parents to implement with their children from a very young age. Tooth decay (which leads to cavities) remains the most common chronic disease in children, despite the fact that it could be easily prevented. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), more than 40% of children ages 2 to 11 have had a cavity in their baby teeth. NIDCR also reports that decay is increasing in preschool-age children, a problem that is entirely preventable through good oral hygiene.
This February marks the 76th annual month-long focus on children’s dental health. National Children’s Dental Health Month is sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA) to raise awareness about oral hygiene. Throughout the month, the benefits of good oral hygiene are promoted extensively to children and their families, teachers and other caregivers. To further this campaign, the ADA provides many free resources for parents and educators, including posters you can download. This year’s motto: “Water, Nature’s Drink!”
The ADA recommends that children brush for two minutes, two times a day. However, brushing teeth is often a chore that many children (and their parents) dread. Part of the goal of National Children’s Dental Health Month is to provide activities and support materials to help parents and caregivers make brushing fun. Along with those resources, here are a few tips that have worked in our house.
Seven tips for a fun tooth brushing experience:
- Visit the ADA website and download free coloring sheets, crossword puzzles, certificates, a puppet template and more.
- Have your child create a calendar to track good oral health practices. Post the calendar in the bathroom and reward your child with a gold star or happy face for each day of great oral care.
- Sing songs. “Happy Birthday” or the “ABCs,” both sung two times through, are usually a good length for brushing.
- Buy your children fun toothbrushes, and be sure to only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- Join the free America’s Tooth Fairy Kids Club. Members will receive personalized letters from the Tooth Fairy and quarterly fun educational activities.
- Purchase or check out a book/DVD combo like “The Magical Tooth Fairies.” This is a fun and adventurous take on the importance of brushing teeth.
- Set a good example by brushing as a family. If your children watch you brushing your teeth, they will probably be more enthusiastic about brushing their own.
The NIDCR provides the following tips for preventing tooth decay:
- Limit between-meal snacks. This reduces the number of acid attacks on teeth and gives teeth a chance to repair themselves.
- Save candy, cookies, soda and other sugary drinks for special occasions.
- Limit fruit juice. Follow the daily juice recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Make sure your child doesn’t eat or drink anything with sugar in it after bedtime tooth brushing. Saliva flow decreases during sleep. Without enough saliva, teeth are less able to repair themselves after an acid attack.
Good habits begin in the home. Developing a good oral hygiene routine at an early age and visiting the dentist regularly will help your children ward off tooth decay and cavities. Let’s help our kids make brushing teeth fun!
Resources for Parents
America’s Tooth Fairy Kids Club can be found at americastoothfairy.org/resources. For more fun facts, tips, photos and to see the winning video, like America’s Tooth Fairy on Facebook. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) publishes the MedlinePlus Magazine feature on Children’s Dental Health. nidcr.nih.gov/ For free booklets, brochures, teacher’s guides and activities in English and Spanish specifically about Children’s Dental health, visit: nidcr.nih.gov/OrderPublications/#2