February is Children’s Dental Month
I have the best photo of my husband and toddler (not so toddler anymore) hanging out in the upstairs bathroom brushing their teeth. First, dad strikes a deal with our then one year old daughter to let her attach a plethora of tiny little hair bows and clips all over his head (what a trooper). In return she gets to brush his teeth in conjunction with brushing her own. This was the highlight of our child’s day, something she looked forward to every evening (maybe not so much dad, but hey, you agree to make sacrifices when you have kids right?) that taught her the value of brushing her teeth and good hygiene practices from an early age.
It can be very helpful to let your child hold a different toothbrush (or even one in each hand) while you brush his/her teeth. Let them be the “boss” of everything you can about brushing — the toothbrush they choose, the toothpaste (or not), the song, the position they’re in, how many times you have to make funny faces before they’re done, etc. Many parents say that simultaneously letting the little one brush their teeth WHILE they brush theirs is the best distraction.
Of course singing is an option as well, “This is the way we brush our teeth, after we eat our dinner” or “The toothbrush in the mouth goes round and round” can be very helpful because singing increases the fun level and reinforces the routine. Maybe most important, it assures the child that the brushing is time limited, because they can count on it ending when the song ends. Keep it VERY short!
Toddlers don’t really understand why they need to brush their teeth, no matter what stories we tell them about cavities. After you eat, bacteria go crazy over the sugar on your teeth, like ants at a picnic. The bacteria break it down into acids that eat away tooth enamel, causing cavities. Plaque also causes gingivitis, which is gum disease that can make your gums red, swollen, and sore. Tooth decay occurs faster in children than adults, so it is vital to establish a healthy tooth brushing routine for your child as early as possible.
Kids should use a soft toothbrush. The size and shape of the brush should allow them to reach all areas of their mouth. Replace toothbrushes every three to four months, sooner if the bristles are worn out or if your children have been sick.