It can be so easy to forget about oral health, especially in the morning when you’re rushing, or at nighttime, when you just want the kids in bed already. But when it comes to tooth brushing, we don’t mess around in our family.
Our oral health affects our whole body and if our mouth and teeth aren’t healthy, chances are the rest of our body isn’t either. Oral health can affect your physical, mental and social well-being. Our mouths are full of bacteria, and while a lot of this bacteria isn’t harmful because we brush and floss regularly, it CAN be if we forget to do those things.
Because I’ve had my fair share of tooth-related instances, I’m no stranger to the dentist’s chair. I know the importance of oral care to detect oral health problems or prevent them before they start. Did I mention I once had a 3-hour root canal?. I also recently discovered that I grind my teeth while I sleep (mom stress?), so now I have a mouth guard that my dentist custom fit to my teeth, and I wear it every night. Dealing with dental issues isn’t fun, so I’m strict about keeping our kids’ teeth in good shape. Thankfully, protecting those little teeth is easy.
How to Care for Children’s Teeth: Tips for Healthy Teeth and Oral Health
- Keep Snacks Healthy. K is growing like mad, and it feels like he is constantly hungry. We try always to have healthy snacks on hand for him to munch on. Fresh fruit and cut-up veggies like carrots, celery and cucumber, are big staples. Raw nuts and dried fruit like raisins and apricots are also popular and healthy. It’s no secret we love smoothies in this house, so that’s another go-to.
- Say No to Fruit Juices. While we do like to enjoy a glass of pure orange juice with breakfast, we limit fruit juices to morning only. Water has always been our number one drink choice and having an accessible water cooler that K can easily access himself encourages him to drink lots of the good H20. Sugary drinks and sodas are terrible on teeth, especially little developing ones, so we completely avoid those.
- Limit Sugar. Oh, the white stuff. It hides in so many food items. Make sure you’re eating whole grain bread and crackers, only drinking unflavoured milk, keeping desserts healthy (plain yogurt with fruit or applesauce are good ones), and checking labels for that sneaky added sugar.
- Don’t Clean Your Teeth Right After Eating. Wait an hour or so if possible, to help the saliva get rid of the acid on the teeth first; otherwise, you might be removing some of the teeth’s surface.
- Try to Finish Meals with Dairy if You Eat it. Dairy naturally cuts down on any acid in the mouth. Have a glass of milk hand or even a bit of cheese.
Make Tooth Brushing Fun
Tooth brushing can sometimes be a struggle as well; I get it. Try to make it as fun as possible so it goes more smoothly for everyone.
Brush your teeth as much as possible in front of the kids. Children love to imitate. If they see you doing it, they’ll want to do the same.
We let K pick out his new toothbrush when he’s with us, or I buy fun ones I know he’ll like. He also loves the little kids’ shaped floss sticks and gets to choose one out each night.
And the one thing we’ve always done? Sing a classic song to help us get through it. To this day, our 4-year-old still comes to expect Raffi’s Brush Your Teeth during our nighttime routine. That song was a favourite tune of mine as a kid and one day during a particular tough teeth-brushing struggle; I started singing it to K. He LOVED it, and now we sing it every time, making up fun new verses as we go along.
Visit the Dentist
Make sure you bring the kids to visit the dentist every 6 months or so. Dentists recommend bringing your little ones in by the time they’re about one year old. The first visit or two are pretty quick ones, just to make sure everything looks good and maybe give you some tips on best brushing techniques. As they get older, the visits get a bit longer. For our first few visits, K just laid on me, but I was apprehensive about how his first longer real visit in the big chair on his own would go. We prepared beforehand by reading books about the dentist and talking about our upcoming visit. It turned out that by the time we got there, he wasn’t nervous at all, and it went so smoothly. The dental hygienist and dentist were both incredible with him. They let him see every tool before they used it and took the time to answer all of his questions. He was so comfortable there and was pretty stoked about leaving with a goody bag of toothbrushes, floss sticks and stickers. If your little one is nervous, you can also schedule a quick check of your own teeth right beforehand so he or she can see you in the chair before it’s their turn. This can help reassure them that it’s normal and not scary at all.
Getting kids into seeing the dentist the earlier, the better is great not only to get them accustomed to the dentist but also to make sure their teeth and mouth are healthy and in good shape. I’m also a big believer in regular visits to the dentist for everyone. So for all my readers in Ontario, make sure you take the time to book an appointment with your dentist to stay on top of your health. To find a dentist in your area, click here.
I’d love to know how you make dental health a priority in your home. Hit me up with your best tips!
Disclosure: Although this post has been generously sponsored by the Ontario Dental Association, the opinions and language are my own, and in no way do they reflect the Ontario Dental Association.