Valentine’s Day this weekend….Even if you think it’s a card-store holiday chances are your children LOVE it. So power on Super Mama & Super Papa and learn something that makes it worth it. The American Dental Association declared February National Children’s Dental Health Month (I’m thinking because of the holiday and all those sugar hearts). This may have to do with candy…..but please read on even if you DON’T have a sweet tooth. Setting a good example and teaching children from an early age how to take care of their teeth is worth all of our time. It’s something I’m STILL working on as a parent. This matters because tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in kids age 6-11 and adolescents age 12-19. Additionally, at least 20% of children ages 5-11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Flossing and brushing 2 times a day changes the odds. Boom.
7 Tips For Healthy Teeth:
- Take your baby or toddler to the dentist for a check-up before or around their 1st birthday, even if they only have 2 teeth! The American Academy of Pediatric dentistry suggests you start check-ups no later than 1 year (not 3 years). If your dentist sends you away and tells you to return at age 3, find a new dentist. Really. This check can also happen with your pediatrician or family doctor. Most in Washington State, for example, are trained to do this and even do fluoride varnish!
- Don’t make formula with bottled water. Use tap water. Filter it or boil it if you like, but don’t buy bottled water for baby or for your children. Water with fluoride (added by the city) is protective for your child’s teeth. Further, get milk off your baby’s or child’s teeth prior to bedtime. Never leave a bottle in the crib with your baby, and do your best to brush their teeth after their last feed, nursing, or bottle.
- You may have heard about Alicia Silverstone’s feeding session on Youtube. The one where she pre-chews her baby’s food (premastication) and transfers it back to his mouth???? My advice: don’t do this. Seriously so unnecessary. You transfer all the cavity-causing bacteria from your mouth to your baby’s mouth and increase their risk for early cavities (we harbor aggressive bacteria in our mouth as we age). I feel strongly that parenting like a celebrity isn’t always the right way. And another thing: don’t “clean” your baby’s pacifier with your mouth. Ever. No need! 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 — that way when we kiss our delicious babies, we don’t share such aggressive bugs.
- Toothpaste! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using fluoridated toothpaste as soon as your baby gets teeth. Fluoride is an anti-cavity active ingredient available in over-the-counter (OTC) products that helps prevent tooth decay and cavities. You can buy the infant toothpaste if you’d like, but it doesn’t assist with cleaning better than water. As soon as your baby gets a tooth, use a smear of children’s toothpaste (think a tiny, rice kernel amount) until they are around 2 years of age and can spit. After they know how to spit, use a pea-sized amount of children’s toothpaste thereafter.
- My Rule of 2’s: Brush your child’s teeth every day, 2 times a day, until they are in 2nd grade, for 2 minutes at a time. Get an egg timer to help because as I learned, that 2 minutes can feel like an eternity with a restless toddler. And if your child wants to try brushing on their own first, fine. But then you clean up the job thereafter. I admit it: two minutes can feel like a century on those nights when all we’re waiting for is the quiet of bedtime.
- For 20 minutes 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 your daily latte! Drink it all at once because every sip causes a 20-minute change in the mouth.
- Floss! If you only brush you miss about 40% of the junk in the mouth that flossing supports. You gotta clean in between those teeth! I know. Tough habit to adopt. We’re still working on it at Casa Swanson….
This post was written in partnership with KnowYourOTCs.org. In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @KnowYourOTCs #KnowYourOTCs for more info on health and wellness.