February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and West Maple Pediatric Dentistry wants to offer you a few tips and tools to keep your children’s smiles shining bright and healthy for a lifetime!

As we see more and more preventable illness costing people comfort, lifestyles, and lives, it’s hard to imagine that as we advance as a culture, our health continues to decline. There are surgeries and operations to treat everything from blocked arteries to spare tires, and yet our health as a country continues to suffer.

Overall health begins with oral health, and it begins far sooner than you may think! Your own oral health journey began likely before your parents even had a name picked out for you. That’s because the oral health of a pregnant mother can affect the health of her children. From blood pressure to heart health, all the way to inadvertently passing on gum disease through a kiss or a shared spoon, taking care of a baby starts with the health of parents!

They’re Just Baby Teeth…

Taking care of your child’s teeth starts before the eruption of the very first one. Wiping your child’s gums, cheek, and tongue with a clean, damp cloth can help prevent sugars and bacteria from settling. Your child’s gums are susceptible to disease long before teeth make an appearance!

Often, parents will disregard cavities or decay in baby teeth, feeling comforted by the fact that these teeth fall out, and considering their child’s adult teeth a “clean slate”. Unfortunately, that’s just not how it works.

Not only is decay this early a sign that your child isn’t having proper care taken of their teeth, it could be a sign that your child’s teeth and gums are more susceptible to damage and decay. This means your child will have to learn exceptional habits to keep their teeth in their mouths where they belong!

Additionally, the decay or loss of a baby tooth can lead to damage and bone loss, which can be permanent. This means that even when the adult tooth comes in, the bone that holds those teeth in place may be unable to accommodate the new tooth. This can be a very expensive and painful process to address!

Thankfully, with some help from parents and regular dental checkups, your child’s smile can stay drama free! *Teen angst, fights about eating vegetables, and arguments over whether or not they really have to invite Jessica to their birthday party notwithstanding.

But it’s been FOREVER!!!

Your child doesn’t have a good concept of time. Case in point: Allow them 30 minutes of screen time. 45 minutes later, they’re in tears, swearing that they’ve only been on for “like a minute!!!” Now ask them to spend five minutes pickup up toys. Within 30 seconds, they’ll promise it’s been at least an hour!

Asking them to spend two full minutes brushing their teeth is pretty equivalent to torture, and the Geneva Convention is working on harsher punishments for parents who require their children to floss.

Try making the bedtime routine fun by having a special song and dance you do while you brush teeth. Two minutes goes fast when you’re wiggling your booty! Kids love gross humor, so while flossing, pretend you’ve found all manner of disgusting treasures. Our hygienists have found dinosaur fossils, unicorn horns, and the lost city of Atlantic between our patient’s teeth. We’re sure you can find bigfoot’s flip flops and a ghost’s lost ham sandwich in there from time to time!

What if I Don’t?

There’s a very good chance that your child doesn’t want to brush their teeth because they simply don’t know what’s going to happen if they don’t!

This isn’t a time to scare them, or to create anxiety around their oral health habits. Instead, teach them that brushing and flossing gives them power over decay, bad breath, and tooth loss. Instead of “you don’t want to lose all of your teeth like Grandpa Joe, do you??”, teach them that they have the power to keep their teeth healthy and strong for a whole hundred years! The strongest muscle in their body is their jaw, but it doesn’t do much good if their teeth aren’t healthy and strong, too!

The Real Cost of Skipping Care

While cavities, root canals, and gum disease are nobody’s picnic, many Americans still see dental health as a luxury. As you struggle through another work week with a toothache, learn to chew on only one side, and chew on gum to keep the growing insecurity about bad breath at bay, your children are also learning that maybe flossing and getting a checkup is optional.

The cost is proving to be even higher than the insecurity, discomfort, and ultimate loss of teeth. A study released by Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California shows that children who suffer poor oral health missed a significantly higher number of school days per year, with 1/3 of all days missed being attributed to oral health issues. These missed days ultimately resulted in lower grades.

While we know that a test score cannot determine a person’s worth, talent, or ability, it can affect their opportunities. You have done so much already to ensure your child’s ultimate success. You’ve given them every reason to smile. Now, give us the opportunity to keep that smile strong and healthy, and help you give them every chance available!

We love our patients, every month of every year. This Children’s Oral Health Month, let us thank you for trusting us with the smiles you love most!

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