Teaching Children to Floss

My parents were (and still are) flossing fanatics so I learned how to floss not long after my first teeth came in (okay, that may not be quite accurate, but I was definitely very little). In this guest post, Jon Engle, shares some helpful strategies that moms and dads everywhere can use to get the kiddies to get into the flossing habit early.

Great oral health care habits are things that should be taught from a very young age so children can continue to use them throughout their lives in order to maintain great oral health.  While teaching proper techniques will take plenty of time and patience, it is a lifelong lesson which will benefit them throughout their entire life.  Most children begin to show an interest in brushing their teeth at a young age because they see their parents brushing their teeth so often and want to develop the independence of being able to brush their own teeth instead of having them brushed for them.  Oddly enough, this is usually not the case for flossing.  Properly using dental floss will require much more one-on-one teaching in order to assure the child will develop the habit young.

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8 Cavity Fighting Foods

When it comes to teeth, it seems like we always hear about the foods we shouldn’t eat or the beverages we shouldn’t drink because they cause cavities. But are there foods and drinks that could actually prevent tooth decay and cavities. Turns out the answer is Yes, as you’ll read in this guest post from Jon Engle.

There is more to healthy teeth than just brushing and flossing. For optimal dental health and general wellbeing, it is important to eat the right foods for your teeth. While cavities and gum disease aren’t regarded as life threatening illnesses, more studies are finding that dental health is related to other health outcomes such as heart disease, mental illness, and neurological disorders. In addition to regular dentist appointments and proper at home care, make sure you are getting enough of the following foods for the prevention of tooth decay, periodontal disease, and to increase your overall health and wellbeing.

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Pacifiers, sippy cups, and bottles might not be as harmless as you’d think

When manufacturers stopped making pacifiers that could break apart and a lot of people switched from glass bottles to plastic (BPA-free, of course), we thought the big dangers were gone. Maybe not.

Proving my theory that babies and toddlers are constantly searching for new ways to scare the hell out of their parents, a new study comes out showing that an average of 2,270 children under three are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year for injuries involving pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups (the majority are one-year olds).  According to the study, which looked at ER data for the past 20 years, two thirds of the accidents involved bottles and 86 of the injuries involved falling down. In 14.3% of cases, the culprit was the seemingly harmless sippy cup.

Binkies, bottles and sippy cups: Handle with care

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Sorry, I Forgot. Did You Say Something?

Dear Mr. Dad: My daughter is a really good kid, but she can’t seem to remember anything for more than five minutes. We constantly have to harp at her about things that should be habits, like brushing her teeth every morning. Is there something wrong with her? Why can’t she remember to do things like that on her own?

A: Unfortunately, you and your daughter aren’t living in the same world—at least not at the same time. In your world, people remember to brush their teeth (but do you always floss?). In hers, there are so many other things going on that it’s easy to get distracted. Things that seem critical to you may not even be on her radar at all. So expecting her to act like a mini adult is unrealistic.

What I’m getting at is that from what you’re describing, it’s pretty unlikely that there’s anything wrong with your daughter’s memory, other than losing track of time or having her priorities in a different order than yours. That said, there are a few steps you can take to keep her on track.

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Pacifier Addiction

Dear Mr. Dad: My son loves his pacifier, but he’s almost three and my wife says it’s time for him to give it up. But when I try to take it away he doesn’t sleep and cries hysterically. What’s wrong with a pacifier?

A: The day-to-day life of a toddler can be a lot more stressful than we realize. New activities all the time, constant field trips and errands, new friends, a transition to preschool—and then someone comes along and tries to take away the one thing in life he can always count on: the binky. It sounds like your son’s pacifiers have become “transitional objects”—something (as opposed to some person) he uses to soothe himself and relieve stress. If so, it might be wise to let him keep using it until he develops other coping mechanisms.

Besides relieving a child’s stress and giving him a sense of comfort and security, there are other benefits associated with pacifier use. One of the biggest is that pacifier use seems to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The connection is so strong that the American Academy of Pediatrics actually endorses pacifier use. According to the AAP, most children break the pacifier habit on their own between ages 2 and 4. In addition, some parents (and researchers) believe that taking away the pacifier too soon may forcethe child to find a different comfort measure, like sucking her thumb or shirt sleeves, pulling her own hair, or carrying around a blankie.

That said, there are plenty of folks who believe that pacifiers shouldn’t be used after a baby’s first birthday. There’s a lot of disagreement about this, but in fairness, here are some of their reasons:

  • With a pacifier in his mouth, your son may talk less and may have problems with pronunciation. Taken to an extreme level, binky use could damage his tongue and lip muscles, which in turn could delay his language development and might even cause a lisp.
  • For young babies, dependence on a pacifier for sleep means they’ll wake up and need your help finding it if the thing falls out of their mouth at night.
  • Newborns may have trouble learning to breastfeed properly if they get a pacifier before breastfeeding is well established.
  • Although no one can say exactly why, some studies link pacifiers to increased risk of ear infections.
  • Prolonged pacifier use might cause buck teeth. This isn’t an issue for baby teeth—they move back into position after a few pacifier-free months—but it could be a problem with adult teeth, which typically appear around 4-6 years. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry discourage pacifiers after age four.

The best way to settle this is to ask your son’s pediatrician and dentist (if he’s doesn’t have one, he should). If you decide to give up the pacifier, here are some strategies to try:

  • Give them away (tell your son he’s giving them to babies who need pacifiers, or have him leave them under his pillow for the pacifier fairy).
  • Exchange them for a toy.
  • Cold turkey—just throw them away (for example, after his 3rd birthday when he’s officially a “big boy”).
  • Ease the transition away from the pacifier habit by offering a reward for achieving a specified number of pacifier-free days or for giving it up completely.
  • Rely on peer pressure. Surround your son with other (pacifier-free) children and he may decide he doesn’t want to be the only “baby” using a pacifier.

Brush off Brushing?

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife thinks we should be brushing our 2-year old’s teeth every night. But the nights I put our daughter to bed, she refuses to let me brush her teeth. Is it really necessary at this age? Isn’t she going to lose these teeth in a few years anyway?

A: The quick answer is Yes and Yes. Yes, your daughter will lose her primary teeth (also called “baby teeth”)—the first ones when she’s around six, the last ones by the time she’s 13. And yes, even though they’re in her mouth temporarily, it’s important to take care of them while they’re there. First of all, they’ll help her adult teeth come in straight. Second, she needs those teeth as she learns to speak. And third, they’ll help her chew her food properly. Baby teeth are just as susceptible to cavities as their adult mouthmates. And most dentists will tell you that tooth decay is an infection, one that can harm your child’s overall health. Oh, and if you think getting her to brush her teeth is hard now, imagine how hard it’ll be if she needs fillings.
Dr. Oana Romasan, a Florida-based pediatric dentist (smileykidz.com), recommends that parents brush their children’s teeth as soon as they appear. Using a soft-bristle brush and only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, brush each tooth in a gentle circular motion. Be sure to get the inside, outside, and chewing surface of every tooth, and finish up by brushing her tongue (to remove build-up of plaque- and bad-breath-causing bacteria).
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