(Photos courtesy of wagnerpediatricdentistry.com and Boutiquephotographer.com) February is the month of love and romance, but it's also National Children’s Dental Health Month (didn't you know?).
While you may think you're taking good enough care of your children's teeth, about 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why does it matter?
According to the personal-finance website WalletHub, dental health has an effect on appearance, general well-being and even financial earnings.
What's more, there's a clear connection between poor oral health and diabetes, because the inflammation caused by poor oral health can interfere with the body's ability to utilize insulin. Don't believe me, believe webmd.com. There are even studies linking this same oral inflammation with heart disease.
More generally, a child’s oral health contributes to their physical, social, and emotional development, building self-esteem throughout their life and supporting good nutrition.
And finally, by preventing dental problems before the occur, you'll save a lot of money. Cavities are expensive!
Tips for parents
Sure, you've taught your kids to brush their teeth twice a day. But here are some questions to ask yourself to help you improve your family's dental health habits:
1. Are your kids brushing with fluoride toothpaste?
The fluoride helps remineralize the damage done from sugar exposure. You don't have to buy the expensive kind, according to Donald Chi, associate professor in the School of Dentistry at University of Washington.
2. Are you replacing the toothbrush every 3-4 months?
Every three or four months, it's a good idea to replace your child's toothbrush. The bristles fray and become less effective, and microorganisms like to grow in a moist environment. You can also consider replacing a toothbrush after a cold or flu to avoid reintroducing germs.
3. Are your kids flossing?
According to oralb.com, children should start flossing once their teeth are close together, usually between the ages of 2 and 6. Parents can help at first, and kids can usually do it on their own around age 10.
Use a sticker chart or some other rewards system to encourage them to floss, or purchase some kid-friendly individual flossers, like these dinosaur themed flossers from Johnson and Johnson.
4. Do your kids know that when they can't brush, they should drink water or chew sugar-free gum?
Both of these options help to wash away residue that would normally stick to the teeth. Look for sugar-free chewing gums with the seal of the American Dental Association.
5. Are your kids drinking sugary beverages?
Stop or reduce! Even if the product says 100% juice or all natural, that high concentration of sugar will demineralize your children's teeth and create cavities.
6. Are your kids drinking tap water?
When it comes to dental health, drinking fluoridated tap water is a good thing. According to the City of Milwaukee's website, Milwaukee tap water is fluoridated at a level that does not exceed 0.7 mg/L of fluoride, conforming with regulations. This fluoride helps keeps teeth strong.
The fluoride level was lowered in 2012 to an amount that is considered safe even for infants under 6 months old, though some parents opt for a lower fluoride alternative like bottled water.
7. Is your dentist kid-friendly?
Milwaukee is home to some really innovative pediatric dentist offices that you might want to check out.
According to Dr. CJ Wagner of Wagner Pediatric Dentistry in Whitefish Bay, a pediatric dentist has two years of extra training in child development, behavior management and growth-and-development, and limits their practice to treating children only.
The dentist's office in Wagner Pediatric Dentistry, for example, is very kid-friendly, with a giant Litezilla on the wall, a magnet wall, televisions above every chair, and prizes for kids.
Dr. Wagner says he sees himself as a "camp counselor turned pediatric dentist" and tries to incorporate humor and fun into his appointments.
(In the office of Wagner Pediatric Dentistry in Whitefish Bay)
Other pediatric dentists:
Celebrate with Betty Brinn
Start the conversation with your kids and make dental health fun with Betty Brinn Children's Museum this month.
Betty Brinn Children’s Museum is partnering with Dental Associates to present a month-long awareness campaign to improve oral healthcare.
They'll be hosting a National Children’s Dental Health Month Resource Booth hosted by Dental Associates from 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. on four dates in February.
Dental Associates team members will show kids the keys to good oral health, with fun tips for brushing and healthy eating and free dental care supplies. Caregivers will learn about the importance of dental care for infants and pre-school age children and when to begin.
At noon, Museum visitors will enjoy a family-friendly, interactive program where kids can dress up like giant teeth and role-play the proper way to brush and floss and parents can get answers to their dental health questions.
Dates are Monday, February 6, 2017, Saturday, February 11, 2017, Monday, February 20, 2017, and Saturday, February 25, 2017
In partnership with Dental Associates, the Museum will be sharing dental health tips throughout the month of February on social media at www.facebook.com/bettybrinn.