How Parents Can Help their Children Combat the #1 Chronic Childhood Illness
By Richard Mungo, DDS, Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County
Did you know tooth decay is the number one chronic childhood illness? February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. This month, and all year long, parents can prevent the dangers of dental decay by selecting foods that promote good dental hygiene and helping their kids get into habits that will make for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Parents should encourage their children to eat dental-loving foods. Snacks and meals can be naturally delicious with the abundance of fresh foods available, giving kids plenty of energy to study and play, and protect their teeth and gums. Healthy options include fun-to-eat crunchy vegetables with a nice flavorful dip, low-fructose fruit, such as apples, pears, grapes and strawberries, low-fat yogurt or string cheese, graham crackers, hard-boiled eggs, and bite-size sandwiches made with whole-grain bread and chicken. It’s important to always drink plenty of water to keep hydrated and to wash away sugar and acids, too.
Brush Up on Good Brushing
Remember, tooth decay prevention begins at home, including with brushing teeth two or three times a day, at least after breakfast and before going to bed, for two minutes each time. After snacking, if brushing isn’t convenient they can rinse with water — swish and swallow, or spit. For brushing, remember to apply a pea-size tab of toothpaste to a soft, dry brush. The most-effective technique is to angle the brush up to gums, and “wiggle, jiggle” each tooth 10 times. Make sure to brush the tongue, too, and change toothbrushes every three months or after an illness.
Finish it off with Floss
Plus, each day at least one minute should be spent flossing, and don’t forget to wash your hands before doing so! Best flossing practices include unrolling about 18 inches of dental floss to use and practicing a gentle up and down motion along the tooth side for cleaning. For each tooth, use a new section of floss. (For young children use of flossers is sometimes easier plus they come in fun, colorful shapes.) Parents should floss children’s teeth until they are able to floss well by themselves, usually around age nine. And, don’t forget a final rinse with a small amount of fluoride solution by swishing to a count of 10 on one side, a count of 10 on the other side, a count of 10 in front and then spit out.
Remember, too, you should schedule dental checkups twice a year with your dentist. A child’s first visit should be at age one or at the first sight of a tooth emerging.With these tips, your child can adopt good dental hygiene practices that will last a lifetime for a healthy smile!
Richard Mungo, DDS, a founding board member for Healthy Smiles for Kids of Orange County and a pediatric dentist in Huntington Beach, brings 28 years of experience to the oral health care field. He also serves as part-time faculty at the USC School of Dentistry and is a lecturer at UCLA School of Dentistry.