Children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. At times, this is great—like when you hear a “thank you” or they do something cute. Other times, not so much—like when you hear a bad word that they picked up at school. While we cannot help you with the bad language (sorry, moms and dads), we can help you to take advantage of their pliable nature by getting them started with good dental habits at a young age.
After all, what better time to encourage great oral hygiene than during our favorite month, February, also known as National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM)? To get you started on the path to helping your children have healthy mouths, teeth, and gums, we thought we would offer you a few pointers.
1. What Food and Beverages Should My Children Avoid?
While we know that you are concerned about your children’s teeth, we would like to start out by saying that no food is off limits. No, we do not want your kids eating junk food all day (and neither do you), but we feel it is reasonable to suggest that rather than banning specific foods outright, you instead limit them to once or twice a week.
That being said, we would encourage you to only allow moderate consumption of candy and sticky foods like dried fruits, citric fruits, potato chips, soda, and sports beverages. All of these foods and beverages can damage teeth.
Instead, encourage your children to reach for cheese, sugarless gum, yogurt, apples, almonds, or carrot sticks. All of these snacks have been shown to benefit teeth by either strengthening them or increasing saliva, which lowers the risk of tooth decay.
2. How Can I Instill Good Dental Habits?
You are your children’s role model in this regard. For that reason, we encourage you to practice good dental habits yourself by brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each time, flossing daily, and limiting foods on our “moderation list.”
Also, you can further instill good dental habits in your children by allowing them to pick out their own toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss. When they have a say in what they use, they are far more enthusiastic about good dental hygiene!
3. What About Thumb Sucking, Nighttime Baby Bottles, and Daytime Sippy Cups?
No, no, and no to all 3! While we do not expect you to suddenly rip your child’s thumb out of his mouth after reading this, we encourage you to work toward eliminating all of these behaviors. Thumb sucking beyond the age of 5 can alter the bite, palate, and teeth, resulting in the need for future orthodontic work.
Nighttime baby bottles and daily sippy cups may not alter children’s bites, but they can also be very damaging to teeth. With nighttime bottles, milk pools in the mouth. Unfortunately, this allows the sugar to eat away at the enamel, leading to pitting and discoloration.
Sippy cups, on the other hand, are fine with meals and snacks. However, they become a problem when children are allowed to drink from them for several hours a day, preventing natural saliva from rinsing away tooth-decaying sugars.
If your children are still engaging in any of these behaviors, take steps now to replace them with healthier alternatives. Their teeth would thank you, if they could!
4. How Often Should I Bring My Children to the Dentist?
The American Dental Association recommends that you bring your children to the dentist every 6 months, starting after their first birthday. This allows us to see how their teeth are coming in, check for tooth decay, and offer a thorough cleaning.
5. How Can I Schedule a Dentist Appointment?
Scheduling your children’s dentist appointment is easy! Simply click here to use our online appointment request form or call us at 978.688.4441. We are located in Methuen and are pleased to offer evening and weekend appointments for your convenience.