This weekend is one of the most fun holidays of the year, for adults and kids alike. Like Halloween and Easter, it is a day when your children are likely to be exposed to a TON of candy – usually of the chocolate variety. If your littles are anything like mine, they love any excuse to indulge their sweet tooth. But with the exposure to so many sugars, that sweet tooth can soon turn into a rotten tooth if you’re not careful.
If you’re a long time blog reader, you will know that I have written a LOT about dental health. It’s a subject near and dear to my heart. I’ll admit that I never took great care of my teeth growing up, though I was lucky never to have had a cavity until I had my first child at age 29. But I DID have to have braces when I was a teen, which was all together mortifying for me at the time. Part of taking care of my braces was learning how to brush my teeth correctly, using fluoride treatments and daily flossing. It was then that I became very interested in dental hygiene.
When I first met my husband, he used to chide me about the fact that I was constantly running to the bathroom to brush my teeth and use mouthwash. I hated the feeling of “furry” teeth, and I wanted them to always be clean. Unfortunately, my dental hygiene slipped during my three pregnancies because my gag reflex was so acute that I couldn’t brush more than once a day – and THAT was a huge struggle!
So for my kids, I wanted to make sure that they took care of their teeth well right from the beginning. But getting kids interested in brushing their teeth is very difficult. Finding ways to make it fun for them is imperative, as otherwise they just moan and refuse to even try! It’s also really important to get them to a dentist as soon as they have teeth. Exposing them to it at a young age will help them so that they are not afraid of the dentist’s office. Unfortunately, we realized last year that we’d waited a bit too long.
Our first trip to the dentist for our oldest wasn’t until he was four years old. Our middle son was two. We took them in, and I was pleasantly surprised that the four year old was really excited! He sat in the chair and let the doctor do his thing, and he smiled the whole time. Unfortunately we were told that he had a cavity that needed filling. My heart almost broke in two! How could I have let that happen? Sure he was obsessed with junk food and sweet treats, but I couldn’t believe he would actually have to have a tooth drilled! I felt like the worst mom ever.
And then it was the two year old’s turn. He sat in the chair and immediately freaked out. He screamed and cried and wouldn’t let the dentist in his mouth at all. We’d waited far too long to get him in, and as a result, he was terrified. Another mom failure.
Thankfully we turned things around pretty quickly. We got our oldest’s tooth fixed (he was a superstar!), and we’ve since been back for cleanings with both kids. Now they both love to brush their teeth, and the kids’ bathroom is usually covered in bits of toothpaste. They come running in after every brush to show us their lovely white chompers, and we have learned how to give them praise and stickers for good behavior rather than sweets and candies.
It’s been a lesson for all of us.
But when holidays roll around and sugar is the first thought on little minds, it can be hard to remember to keep on top of oral hygiene.
Did you know that according to the CDC, at least 20% of kids ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth? That could have been us if we hadn’t found Dexter’s cavity when we did! Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in kids age 6-11 and adolescents age 12-19! And yes, it IS a disease. So what can you do to help? Check out these oral care tips for parents:
- Fluoride is an anti-cavity active ingredient available in over-the-counter (OTC) products that helps prevent tooth decay and cavities.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using a smear of fluoridated toothpaste at tooth eruption.
- Very young children should use a grain-of-rice sized amount and children 3-6 should use a pea-sized amount of paste or gel to minimize swallowing. It’s recommended that children have an annual oral health evaluation either from a pediatrician or a dentist annually after teeth erupt.
- Parents and caregivers should help a child brushing his or her teeth until mastery is obtained, usually around age 8. Dental decay (cavities) happen because bacteria eat away at enamel at the teeth. Fluctuations in acidity in the mouth accelerate this. After eating or sipping anything with a sugar source (carbohydrates of any kind, milk, juice, fruits, etc) there is a change in the mouth that increases decay. Therefore it’s always better to have a cup of juice all in one sitting and not sip on it all day long. The same is true for a latte! Drink it all at once because every sip causes a 20-min change in the mouth. If you only brush you miss about 40% of the junk in the mouth that flossing supports. Preferred snacks for oral health: fresh fruit, cheese, nuts. Preferred snacks for oral health: fresh fruit, cheese, nuts.
And one final tip before you kiss your little sweethearts this Valentine’s Day: Parents with dental decay pass on their bacteria to their babies when they kiss them. So keeping our own mouths healthy is EXQUISITELY important for our babies and young children.
I am so proud to be partnering with the CHPA Educational Foundation’s KnowYourOTCs blogging program, and I want to remind you that all opinions are my own.