The Plaqster has the dreaded monster mouth, but Flossy, Buck McGrinn, Den and General Smiley know what to do to solve Plaqster’s problem. The American Dental Association (ADA) has created these characters to celebrate National Children’s Dental Health Month, which occurs every February to promote good oral health.
It takes work to defeat monster mouth, but McGrinn and Smiley, who like to display their smiles, always remember the code “2min2X” when they brush their teeth for two minutes in the morning and evening, and, like Flossy, floss them once a day. Den wears braces so he is especially careful to take care of his teeth. They are often hungry during the day and need their snacks, but they choose food with little or no sugar, so they won’t get cavities. Instead of lemonade, Coke, or fruit juice, they drink water, milk or sugar-free drinks. Instead of sticky foods (like potato chips and chewy candy) or hard candies and breath mints, they eat cheese, yogurt or fresh fruit.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that the number one chronic disease in early childhood is cavities. Cavities are five times more common in early childhood than hay fever. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 40 percent of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. The road to oral health therefore begins in infancy when parents should follow these guidelines to prevent tooth decay:
Wipe the baby’s gums with a soft washcloth after feeding.
- Fill baby bottles with water for naptime or bedtime. Avoid giving your baby juice and other sugary liquids.
- Do not dip a pacifier in anything sweet. Also, break the pacifier habit by age 4 to avoid problems with tooth spacing.
- Encourage your child to drink from a sippy cup by age one.
- Parents should use a soft-bristle toothbrush twice a day on their infant’s baby teeth and should schedule their child’s first dental appointment around the time of his or her first birthday.
Concerns about teeth decay continue, of course, into the school years. The National Education Association (NEA) says that reports show that students miss 51 million hours of school every year because of oral health problems. And children who have experienced recent oral pain are four times more likely than their peers who have had no mouth pain to have lower grade point averages.
In addition to maintaining healthy diets, children need to learn how to take care of their teeth. Parents should follow these recommended steps:
When you know your children understand not to swallow toothpaste, brush their teeth with a kid’s fluoride toothpaste twice daily.
- Take your children to the drugstore to choose their own toothbrushes.
- Brush your teeth when they are brushing theirs to encourage their efforts.
- Begin flossing their teeth when two teeth touch. Feel free to use floss holders and teach them how to use them.
National Children’s Dental Health Month offers a great opportunity for parents to augment their children’s understanding of the importance of oral health with stories and games. Word games, activity sheets, and other goodies (in English and Spanish) can be downloaded from this link on the American Dental Association’s website. You’ll find more good stuff on this page of the National Education Association web site.