The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends that parents bring their child in to visit the dentist within six months of their first tooth showing up in the mouth; or by the age of one. Parents frequently wait until their child has grown older and the teeth have begun to fill in.
Although this is understandable, children will oftentimes show early signs of tooth decay, that go undetected, and other oral health issues which could have been avoided through early detection and screening. Early examination is key to prevent problems and to help instill good habits into children. Protecting your child’s teeth will keep them free of pain and ensure that they have a smile which they want to show off and be proud of.
Practicing brushing and developing a fun routine helps create an enjoyable environment when it comes to oral care. Have your child involved in picking out which toothbrush they like most. Soft bristles help make sure we don’t hurt the gums.
Also, kids’ toothpaste comes in variety of flavors that can make brushing much more pleasant. Ensure that it is a product with fluoride to have the best results.
Another way to make homecare more enjoyable is to treat it like a game. Set a timer for how long kids need to brush their teeth, two minutes. Turn it into a race to remove the most sugar bugs or play a favorite song or video that they can brush along to.
Arts and crafts are a great way to spend quality time with your child while simultaneously unplugging. This project is a great way to teach your kids about oral health while having them reduce screen time as well. Here’s how it goes:
- Cut the bottom off of a water/soda/Gatorade bottle
- Paint it white (this mimics the tooth)
- Create a paste of flour and water with a drop of food coloring (the bad stuff)
- Lather this on the “tooth”
- Get a jumbo toothbrush and brush away
This is a great way to show, teach, and mimic brushing. Having the kids watch the slurry mixture be removed from the teeth solidifies proper oral hygiene technique.
Getting involved in the kitchen with the kids is also a great way to mix in learning about proper diet. A fun recipe that lets everyone get involved is a homemade strawberry popsicle. You’ll only need five super simple ingredients, and the kids will love getting to help out in the kitchen. The recipe goes as follows and makes six delicious popsicles:
- Fresh/Frozen strawberries - 2 cups
- Fresh lemon - 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed
- Natural Sweetener (agave or honey) – ¼ cup
- Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
- Plain whole milk Greek yogurt – 12 ounces
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, blender, or food processor. Grind for about 10 seconds until everything is combined. Divide the mixture into reusable popsicle molds. Place in the freezer overnight for the. These are perfect to cool off after a day outside.
Whichever way you choose to spend time with your loved ones this school year, just know that good oral hygiene can be a fun part of it. Try out some of these ideas mentioned and never hesitate to discuss new ones with your dentist.
Dr. Shohreh Sharif has been practicing dentistry for 25 years. She is: Associate Professor, Howard University College of Dentistry Diplomate, American Board of Pediatric Dentistry Diplomate, American Orthodontic Society IAD Top Pediatric Dentist among Leading Physicians of the World Fellow, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.