Make brushing teeth fun during National Children’s Dental Health Month

Good dental hygiene is an important issue for parents to tackle 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 more than 40 percent of children ages 2 to 11 have had a cavity in their baby teeth. The organization also reports that decay is increasing in preschool-age children; a problem that is entirely preventable through good oral hygiene.

This February marks the 65th annual, month-long focus on children’s dental health. National Children’s Dental Health Month is sponsored by the American Dental Association 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 Association provides many free resources for parents and educators, to include posters. This year’s motto is “Join the Super Smiles Team.”

The Association 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 teachers make brushing teeth fun. Along with those resources, here are a few tips that have worked in my family’s house.

Seven tips for a fun tooth brushing experience

• Visit the American Dental Association’s 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 children 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 is usually a good length for brushing.

• Buy your children fun toothbrushes. But 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 the book and DVD combo: “The Magical Toothfairies.” 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 teeth.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 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.

If your children watch you brushing your teeth, they will probably be more enthusiastic about brushing their teeth. Let’s help our kids “Join the Super Smiles Team” today!

Alexa Bigwarfe resides with her husband, three children — ages 6, 4, and 2 — and their dog.