So here we are – the month after what we all know to be one of the year’s most celebrated candy holidays. While Halloween has admittedly always been one of my favorites – first as a child and then as a parent – it is hard to sugar coat the fact that all of the celebratory treats inevitably bestowed upon our children this time of year have the very real potential to stand in the way of insuring they have happy healthy teeth.
The fact of the matter is that the state of children’s teeth has been shown to be very important to their overall health and well-being. That means that long after your child’s stores of Halloween candy have dwindled and the sugar-laden dust of Halloween has settled, consistently applying a few practical tooth-friendly tips and tricks can help you make taking care of your child’s teeth a year-round fun and resistance-free habit.
And that’s where Melvin comes in. In the spirit of addressing the many tooth-brushing challenges of parenthood, I believe the best approach is to engage children. That’s why I co-authored Melvin the Magnificent Molar – a children’s book based on a lovable tooth of the same name who lives “way, way, way in the back of your mouth” and runs the very real risk of being overlooked and neglected – with the intention of doing just that. Based on the latest, greatest recommendations for taking care of young children’s teeth, Melvin offers such simple yet important tips for happy, healthy teeth as:
Treat baby teeth with the respect they deserve – they are very important. Even though “baby” teeth may not last a lifetime, the habits you introduce early on do! This includes cleaning babies’ gums even before first teeth show up, as well as avoiding putting babies to sleep with a bottle containing anything water.
Make time right from the start for regular cleaning and check-ups. Just like grown-up teeth, baby teeth also need regular cleaning, daily brushing, and routine check-ups. It is recommended that even very young children get in the life-long habit of at least twice-a-day brushing, and get their first check-up within 6 months of the appearance of their first tooth (but no later than one year of age).
Make sure to use fluoride as toothpaste, not tummy-paste. Fluoride has been shown to be very important for healthy teeth, it’s just not generally advised for children under the age of two (unless specifically recommended by your child’s doctor or dentist). Quite simply, that’s because young children have a tendency to swallow it – running the real risk of making it tummy paste rather than toothpaste! Until your child is old enough, either brush your toddler’s teeth without toothpaste or use fluoride-free. Once your child turns two, also remember that the recommended amount of fluoride toothpaste is nowhere near the big swirls shown on TV toothpaste commercials, but rather should be a smear no bigger than the size of your toddler’s pinky fingernail.
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