February may be the shortest month of the year, but it’s still a very important one – and it has nothing to do with candy hearts and roses! February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a celebration of the importance of teaching kids the proper way to care for their teeth. Sponsored by the American Dental Association (ADA), Crest and Oral B, this year’s theme is, “Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and clean between your teeth for a healthy smile.” Here’s how to teach your children to do just that!
Teach your kids to brush
The easiest way to celebrate Children’s Dental Health Month is to teach your kids the proper way to brush and floss their teeth. Show them the correct amount of fluoride paste to put on their brush (about the size of a pea) and the correct brushing pressure (not too heavy handed – you should be able to knock the brush out of their hand without much effort). Make sure they know to reach every exposed surface of their teeth, and to brush their teeth for at least two minutes at a time, twice a day.
Teach them to floss, too
While younger kids may not quite be ready to floss their own teeth just yet, older children should be encouraged to try flossing. The earlier you start your children flossing their teeth, the healthier their teeth will be – and the sooner they will incorporate that healthy habit into their oral care routine. Remind them that flossing should be done at least once a day, preferably before bed, as food and plaque accumulates between the teeth throughout the day. Finally, let them know that without flossing their teeth, they’re only cleaning about 60 percent of their teeth!
Lead by example
Show your kids how you brush your teeth and floss so they can see exactly what good brushing and flossing should look like. Letting your kids see you model these healthy behaviors will also help encourage them to emulate you every day.
Talk up the benefits of a healthy mouth
Remind your kids that healthy teeth aren’t just for looks – bad teeth can take a toll on the whole body. Oral infections can cause everything from gum, tooth and bone loss to bacterial infections, heart attack, stroke and even death. Best of all, encouraging healthy brushing habits gets kids thinking about other ways to stay healthy, including eating right and staying active.
Don’t treat baby teeth like throwaway teeth
One common problem dentists run into is the attitude that “baby teeth are going to fall out anyway, so why bother caring for them.” This sets a dangerous precedent, because in addition to children not learning to properly care for their permanent teeth, they are opening themselves up to the risk of cavities and infection. In fact, did you know that having a tooth pulled before it’s ready to fall out can open up kids to the risk of even more dental problems later on, including crowding, further infections and damage to adult teeth?
Join the celebration
Whether your child’s school or your community is participating in National Children’s Dental Health Month festivities or not, you can still partake from the comfort of your own home! Visit the ADA website and download fun coloring and activity sheets to help make oral care fun while reinforcing the lessons you’re teaching at home. Suggestions for activities and printable downloads can be found here:
For any questions about your child’s oral health, or how you can celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month with your kids, give Dr. George’s office a call at 724-934-3422.