This post was sponsored by Give Kids A Smile as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.
I took the wee ones for their first dental appointments shortly after their first birthdays. They’ve gone twice a year every year ever since. My lucky kids have never had a cavity (knock on wood!), but did you know half of kids entering kindergarten have tooth decay? As depressing as that statistic is, many kids – despite dental coverage under the Affordable Care Act – have untreated issues. Not surprisingly, the biggest demographic tends to be minority, underserved, and Medicaid recipients.
I’m lucky that my kids have had healthy teeth – so far. I remember when we first started brushing my son’s teeth. He resisted it, and it took time to teach them good habits. Teeth in general haven’t always been easy for us, as my son resisted losing his baby teeth. Brushing their teeth isn’t an option in our house, but it isn’t always easy. To this day, I have to remind them to brush their teeth, but thankfully they do – and it shows. These four tips to make brushing easier can help you, too!
Five Tips to Help Give Kids a Smile and Make Brushing Easier
We started brushing with a finger brush as soon as the first tooth popped through. We made sure to make it fun by singing and chatting and giggling as we worked our way through my son’s mouth (and later my daughter’s). At first he hated it. He didn’t want anything in his mouth, or he just wanted to chew on the finger brush. He learned the routine, however, which made oral health easier.
Find a two minute timer
My kids are old enough now that they have an electronic tooth brush that runs for two minutes. We set it up to beep every 30 seconds to remind them to brush a new quadrant in their mouths, and this helps a ton. When we first let them start brushing their teeth on their own, they rushed through it, and their teeth weren’t as clean as they should be. These brushes are perfect, but they aren’t cheap. There are brushes that play music for two minutes and other options, too. Even an old-fashioned kitchen timer set to two minutes works. The key is ensuring kids know how long they need to brush.
Do teeth checks
As much time as I spent teaching my kids how to brush, it should be a no brainer. That said, my kids get distracted and brush the same spot repeatedly, missing the rest of their mouths. Or they brush only part of their teeth but not near the gum line. Or… you get the picture. After they brush, I have them bare their teeth at me to check to see how they did. If they aren’t brushing well, it shows, and I send them back. Even at 11 and 13, I periodically do a technique refresh to remind them what a good brushing looks and feels like.
Make dental visits positive
My kids don’t dread the dentist – partly, I’m sure, because they haven’t had cavities. We started out making the dentist a positive experience. I know my kids got by early afternoon because they wake up so early. I always made dental appointments for mid morning. That way they weren’t too tired or hungry, which minimized any crankiness. I never talk negatively about the dentist, so there is no anxiety for them to pick up from me. And when they were younger, we read books about visiting the dentist where some of their favorite characters had good experiences at the dentist. That made a huge difference.
Find the right dentist
We adore our dentist. He gets kids, and he’s enthusiastic and friendly. He jokes with the kids and doesn’t just focus on their teeth. I know an all business dentist wouldn’t work with my kids. As an adult, however, that’s all I want! Just like not every good teacher is a fit for your child, not every good dentist is a fit for your child. Know you kids’ personalities and find a dentist to match.
Know That Any Child Can Get to the Dentist with Give Kids A Smile
Our dentist is a talker. And he’s a giver. He does the candy buy-backs at Halloween, but he also works with the Give Kids A Smile grassroots organization to provide dental care for the past several years. His entire staff volunteers at the events that provide education and screening, as well as treatment when needed. I love hearing his stories about the difference he makes each year, and our spring visit will include more stories, as the national event kicks off the first Friday of every February, so I know he just served a bunch more kids.
In fact, since the program started 15 years ago, Give Kids A Smile dentists and other volunteers have seen more than 5.5 million kids. That’s an amazing figure, and that doesn’t include this year’s event. The organization sponsored more than 1,300 events in all 50 states, and it all started with two dentists who recognized that too many kids didn’t receive the dental care they needed.
Dental care isn’t optional. When kids suffer tooth decay, they often have issues in school, as well. It doesn’t surprise me that absences for kids with tooth decay are higher and that they often have difficulty paying attention? Tooth decay can be painful and distracting. I get it. Beyond that, kids often have lower self esteem due to their tooth decay. This? I really get. I was born without one of my adult canines and the other was a peg tooth. Once I lost my baby teeth, I had to have braces to move teeth around before having cosmetic work done to fix those issues. I’m lucky that my parents could afford this, but I still remember being embarrassed and not wanting to smile because of my teeth.
Give Kids A Smile helps once a year, but that obviously doesn’t solve all issues. Every child needs to know to brush his teeth twice a day every day with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, floss, and eat healthy foods that don’t encourage tooth decay. And – of course – visit their dentists at least once a year! Does your dentist participate in Give Kids A Smile? Thank your dentist for taking time and energy to help kids who need it.
If your child needs dental care, you can find a participating dentist near you on the Give Kids A Smile resource page or call 844-490-4527 to see if there is a program near you. While most dentist programs happen in February, some dentists provide services on different dates based on their own schedules and needs.
Even if you aren’t a dentist, you can still help Give Kids A Smile continue and thrive. Volunteers need to do so much more than actual checkups. You can volunteer with local events. Another easy way to help? Donate. Give Kids A Smile in 2017 held over 1,400 events with 8,000 plus dentists (and almost 24,000 other volunteers) that saw nearly 300,000 kids. Donate to help this program continue and grow.
Want to learn more about this year’s programs? Check out the Give Kids A Smile Facebook page for stories and other tips.
What are your best tips to ensure your kids learn to take care of their teeth?