With new figures revealing that one in five children starting school in the South West of England already have tooth decay, it is clear that many families could do with some help in the dental department. While we all want our children to have lovely pearly whites, most parents know it can be difficult to get little ones interested in caring for their choppers. Having great teeth involves ongoing commitment and thoroughness- ideals which are pretty out of kilter with the attention span of the average three or four year old. Yet getting into good dental habits at this age is so important, as a robust daily tooth-care routine becomes the foundation for fangs which can last a lifetime! Here we take a closer look at some fun ideas for infusing your little one with love for their teeth.
Teaching children how to brush their teeth can be tricky and in the early days there needs to be a lot of supervision. Reminding them frequently of the need to take time to get to all those hard to reach spots is important- even when they have very few teeth to work with. A fun activity which gets this message across is called ‘Alphabet Germs.’ With just a few inexpensive household objects you can create a great game that everyone will enjoy. Take a couple of ice cube trays- preferably white as these symbolise teeth – a dry wipe marker, a craft stick, some white felt and a little glue. First, stick a small piece of white felt on the end of the craft stick- this makes your toothbrush. Then using the dry wipe marker, write the letters of the alphabet on the individual sections of the cube trays- in other words the teeth. Now it’s time for your child to get brushing- the aim being to remove all those nasty alphabet germs from the sparkly white teeth.
Teeth kind treats
Learning to make good choices about what we eat and drink is a lesson which can never start too early. Showing children from an early age how certain foods and sugary drinks can affect their bodies and especially their teeth is an important investment of time. It can be hard though to get this message across in a fun way which makes them want to learn and get involved. Thankfully a number of dental big hitters have made this process much easier by creating online resources designed to meet the needs of different age groups. Colgate for instance offers a wide range of free games such as ‘Snacktastrophy,’- aimed at four to six year olds, and ‘Snack Swat’ aimed at even younger children. Both games feature superheroes called ‘Tooth Defenders.’ There are lots of other options to pick from including mydentistgames.com and ‘Sugar Bug Blast’ from Barbie.
Find a friendly dentist
Trips to the dentist have historically got a bad press and sometimes adults don’t help by reinforcing the feeling that a dental appointment is something to be feared. Make it clear to your child that your dentist is far from a demon, and is instead someone who can help them care for and protect their twinkly teeth. Most dentists nowadays are ready, willing and able to make a child’s first and subsequent visits fun experiences that there is nothing to be frightened about. To ensure you find a dentist both you and your child will be comfortable with, ask around for recommendations- other parents and also health visitors can be useful sources for this information. Go in and visit the dentist first yourself, without your child present, so as you can get a feel for the practice. Look around for signs of child friendly facilities and ask the dentist what services they provide for younger clients. Consider private as well as NHS provision- investing in your child’s teeth at an early stage can allow them to reap greater rewards in terms of dental health later on. Some dentists, particularly in the private sector, nowadays focus exclusively on children- if you are lucky enough to have one of these practitioners in your area then this is a great option to consider. Whatever dentist you choose the vital thing is to start bringing your child to appointments from a young age. The general advice is to make your first visit within six months of the arrival of his or her first tooth.
Parents and children together have the power to make a real difference in the fight against tooth decay. With the magic combination of better brushing, tooth friendly food and regular trips to the dentist your family can become Tooth Defenders too!
This post was written by Gemma Hunt