CHILDREN'S DENTAL HEALTH MONTH! Are you ready for the questions your kids will have about teeth?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Douglas Grabowski
  • 49th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Although brushing and flossing is an every day task all year, February is Children's Dental Health Month! Throughout the Alamogordo area, doctors and staff from the 49th Medical Group Dental Clinic will visit elementary schools to teach kids the importance of taking ownership of their teeth. Starting in early February, we will give an interactive and age-appropriate presentation to your children in their classrooms.
In the past, I have heard from my active duty Air Force patients that their children came home excited and often full of questions about their teeth and how to take care of them. Here are some basic things that we will be talking to your children about and how you can continue the learning process at home:

1. It is important to brush twice daily for two minutes at a time with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. We recommend a timer or clock in the bathroom. We will also tell your kids it is important to let their parents brush their teeth every time with them until they prove they have the manual dexterity to do so on their own. On average, a child who shows the desire to perfect this clean teeth technique can achieve it by 8 years of age.

2. Don't eat the toothpaste or drink the fluoride rinses! Today, toothpastes are built with additives in them that can severely upset a child's stomach. Fluoride is great for making teeth strong, but only when used correctly. We highly recommend rinsing with a fluoride rinse for thirty seconds after brushing and then spitting out the excess. Kids 5 years of age or less or who cannot spit should avoid the rinses until they are old enough to know that they should not ingest the liquid or toothpaste. Eating a tube of toothpaste can have permanent effects on adult teeth that have not erupted yet!

3. Flossing for kids is important, but it must be done correctly. We recommend that parents do it for their kids until dexterity is proven. Flossing aids are in abundance these days, and kids will buy into flossing if it is easy and not painful. Flossing, if not done regularly, can seem like the bad guy since the gums will often bleed. Sometimes the floss is actually doing the harm, but most of the time the gums bleed because of gingivitis. Regular flossing and brushing for two to three weeks straight should drastically improve gingivitis, and flossing will become a quick, fun, and enjoyable activity for your children. I have very few adult patients who floss every day, often, because it wasn't instilled in them as children, and it is not habitual.

4. We will talk a lot about what types of foods and drinks are good for teeth. Basically, anything with sugar or high levels of acid, even fruit drinks or healthy choices, can be damaging to teeth. I 'm not trying to be the fun police here. I personally think a juice box every once in a while is good, but it should be followed with either a glass of water or a toothbrush. Energy drinks should not be in the cabinet for kids. The best choices are milk, water, sugar free teas, and sugar free juices.

5. Kids will be kids, and accidents will happen, especially when they are first learning their limits during physical playing and sports. Mouth guards are important for kids who are age 8 and above. Even though your child may not have any or all of his or her adult teeth, damage can be done to teeth that have not erupted yet when your child falls off his bike or takes a baseball to the jaw. Protect your kids with a mouth guard. You can have them custom made or boil-and-bite models can be bought at the local department store.

Your kids will come home one day in February smiling from ear to ear and tell you they got a new toothbrush and a sticker. Please help us keep this excitement going year round by fostering an exciting environment that will keep your kids teeth strong for years to come. Even if you think your children have inherited your jack-o-lantern smile, good techniques and habits will go a long way in preserving your children's teeth for decades to come.