February is Children’s Dental Health Month. If your child is in school, he’ll probably learn about good oral hygiene this month. In some areas, dentists and hygienists will be visiting elementary schools in order to give presentations and give free dental examinations. You know that healthy teeth and gums add up to a pretty smile, but did you also know that good oral hygiene is actually very important to overall health? Poor oral health can contribute to a great chance of developing serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes later in life! It’s vital that your child get in the habit of taking care of his teeth and gums now. Here are some tips:
- Teach your child how to brush: He needs to make sure that he cleans every surface of each tooth. Show him to brush the inside and biting surface of his teeth, not just the part that you can see. Also, his brush should be angled toward the gums in order to remove plaque from that sensitive area. My children’s dentist recommends helping kids under the age of nine or so with toothbrushing; ask your child’s dentist or pediatrician whether your child is doing a good enough job. If not, plan on helping him brush before bed.
- Floss your child’s teeth once per day. Rather than simply popping the floss in and out of the spaces between her teeth, think of it as cleaning the sides of each tooth. Kids typically don’t have the manual dexterity to handle this on their own until the later elementary school years, so you may have to help her get the spaces between her back teeth. If the spaces between her teeth are tight, get waxed floss, or ask her dentist for a recommendation.
- Don’t give your child mouthwash unless his dentist recommends it. Many are toxic if swallowed, and as long as you’re brushing and flossing, it’s unnecessary for most kids.
- If your child wears braces or other orthodontic appliances, she may need a water pik, floss threaders or other accessories to allow her to get into all of the spaces. This may seem like a lot of work, but it’s less of a hassle (and cheaper!) than dealing with cavities or gum irritation later.
- Visit the dentist at least twice per year. Even if your child has no cavities, he should have a professional cleaning done every six months. If he is prone to dental decay or sees an orthodontist, he might need to go more often. If you have negative feelings about going to the dentist, try not to pass them on to your child.
- Limit your child’s consumption of sugar. If she does eat a sugary treat, have her brush her teeth afterward. Also, if she takes liquid medication before bed, have her brush; many children’s liquid medications contain sugar or other sweeteners in order to make them more palatable.
Taking good care of your child’s teeth now will help him to develop good habits for life. Children’s Dental Health Month is a great time to evaluate his dental hygiene routine and tweak it if necessary!
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- February is Children’s Dental Health Month « Five For Families Blog | February 4, 2013