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Lessons From a Dentist: Positive Dental Health for Kids

By Dr. Jeffrey Chaffin on March 11, 2022 in Kid's Health

Dental assistant with girl in chair getting an x-ray

As a dentist, my friends and family often ask me for advice on the best ways to take care of their child's dental health. This is one of my favorite topics and I could talk for hours, but I try to stick with the basics.

Here's the secret to your kids retaining these lessons. If the adults in their lives are following and practicing these healthy dental habits, kids will be much more likely to follow them, too. Challenge yourself to model this behavior for the kids in your life.

Lesson #1: Make sure they have a new toothbrush. Replace toothbrushes every three months. Store your toothbrush upright and away from other toothbrushes so it can dry properly and avoid picking up any other bacteria. In 2021, Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation gave away 220,000 toothbrushes to Iowa nonprofits and schools in all 99 Iowa counties, so there’s a good chance your child received a free one. We have given away more than 2.8 million toothbrushes since 2013. [Would you like more information on ordering toothbrushes for your favorite nonprofit? Click here to find out more.]

Lesson #2: Brush twice a day for two minutes, floss once a day. It seems simple enough, but when you are tired or your child is cranky, it can be easy to rush to the next part of your day or collapse into bed. These simple habits are important to develop in childhood. Set a timer, play a song, make it a fun part of your family routine. 

Lesson #3: Schedule dentist appointments and keep them twice a year. The pandemic may have thrown off your preventive care routines but now is the time to get back on track. Your dentist can help identify any potential issues in your kid’s smile and work to develop a long-term plan. These appointments are a perfect opportunity for you to ask questions about potential treatments like dental sealants to protect those new molars. If your child is active in recreational activities like sports, skateboarding or biking, ask your dentist about options for a mouth guard. 

Lesson #4: A healthy balanced diet and drinking water are essential to positive oral and overall health. A little snack prep of raw fruits and vegetables can fuel a day of basketball games, keep teeth healthy and save some money at the concession stand. Try to avoid chewy, sugary snacks like fruit chews and pre-packaged granola bars that can be high in sugar and low on nutrients. Keeping your kiddo properly hydrated with water helps their entire body stay in optimal performance mode whether they are at the playground, at a soccer tournament or building a snow fort with friends. Sugary sports drinks, sodas and energy drinks can lead to energy crashes while leaving teeth exposed to bacteria-loving sugar that can do a lot of damage to our teeth. 

As adults, we can help the kids in our lives develop positive dental health habits from day one. By putting a new toothbrush in the hands of our kids and setting a good example, we provide them with essential tools for a lifetime of healthy smiles. When your child sees their dentist regularly, they are more likely to see the benefits of creating a dental home as they grow up and become independent. Improve the oral and overall health of your family by promoting positive dental health habits.