*This post originally appeared on The PediaBlog on August 17, 2016.
Do Away With Tooth Decay
Tooth (cavities) and gum (periodontitis) disease are two of the most common chronic diseases of children and teenagers. In the past, The PediaBlog has explored ways parents can improve their children’s oral health. (See here and here.) Last April we quoted former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin in forecasting the adult consequences of poor dental hygiene in the pediatric population:
“Recent research has indicated possible associations between chronic oral infections and diabetes, heart and lung disease, stroke, and low birthweight or premature births. In other words, oral health refers to the health of our mouth and, ultimately, supports and reflects the health of the entire body.”
Pick out a special toothbrush: The toothbrush aisle is one of the best aisles for kids to have free reign at the store and find a toothbrush they love at a low cost that helps them invest in their own oral health. These days, brightly-colored and character-themed brushes are aplenty and help kids adopt a new attitude about the whole idea from the beginning. Some of the electric toothbrushes can still be very affordable (like under $5!) with extra soft bristles for gentle cleaning in little mouths.
Let them use mouthwash: Anticavity fluoride rinses come in many kids flavors (like bubblegum, fruit, mint and more!) and sizes, and are generally alcohol free for a more gentle cleanse. They also usually have really cool easy-pour spouts or pumps (like this one) so kids can work on their independence by pouring their own rinse without making a huge mess in the bathroom.
Read about Brushing: A good way to learn about and get your kids excited about any new chore is to read about it. Some visual learners will benefit by seeing examples of teeth and tooth brushing in both children’s books and informational resources with diagrams. Some children will also learn a lot just about what their teeth are for by reading books about them. Dr. Seuss has a pretty hilarious ode to teeth with The Tooth Book, while board books can be a good option for little toddlers, and one of our favorites: Teeth Are Not for Biting can give children positive thing they can do instead of biting when they have new teeth coming in.
Use a Timer: The American Dental Association shared this handy infographic about the best tooth brushing practices including a recommended frequency of two minutes of brushing two times per day! Try keeping a kitchen timer on the bathroom sink to keep the whole family focused while brushing, or hum your favorite song twice in a row while you brush, like the ABC’s or the Happy Birthday song to make sure you’re brushing long enough. The American Dental Association pre-selected a playlist full of songs to brush your teeth to!
You may have heard in the media recently that there is no compelling research for dentists to rely upon when recommending flossing after brushing. That is totally not the same as saying that regular flossing is not a good idea! What appears to be a logical and advisable practice of cleaning between the teeth with a piece of dental floss on a regular basis in order to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bad breath (yes, that food stuck between your teeth will eventually decay and make your breath stinky) remains logical and advisable, regardless of how much the popular media misses the point. We’ll just need to wait for science to catch up with common sense in this case. So keep flossing!