Although teeth usually start the oral health show in your home, it doesn’t do well to ignore the other parts of your child’s mouth when learning how to stay healthy. After all, oral health also depends on keeping a healthy body, choosing the right foods and even ensuring the gums stay healthy as well.
Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa dentist, has decades of experience working with children and new parents. She is here to provide you some ideas how to teach your child mouth anatomy in a fun and engaging way.
Mouth anatomy is about more than just teeth, and the more your child learns about the role his or her entire mouth plays on body health, the easier it is to promote good oral hygiene. Here are a few activities you can do together when talking about whole mouth health.
Mouth Self Portrait
Help your child get to know each part of the mouth. A mouth self portrait is a great way to see just what makes a mouth work the way it does. Grab a mirror, some crayons, a sheet of paper and a well-lit area. Here, have your child open up his or her mouth and peek inside. Talk about some of the things he sees: Not only teeth, but also the gums, tongue, the roof and bottom of the mouth. You can then challenge your child to draw and label those parts, creating a mouth anatomy that all kids become familiar with growing up.
Of course, oral health starts with dental health. When a child’s teeth are properly cared for, the rest of the mouth is healthy as a result. But because kids don’t always know the proper way to brush, try this: Sketch the shape of a tooth on a dark-colored piece of construction paper. Then, offer your child an old toothbrush and some white paint, challenging him to cover the entire tooth with their hand-drawn “toothpaste.” You can then demonstrate different techniques, like brushing up, down, sideways and in a circular motion to ensure the entire tooth is as white as the paper you started with.
Once you’ve practiced on paper, bring them to the sink to practice real-life brushing. Use a mildly flavored toothpaste to encourage a great experience your child will want to improve on again and again.
So much of a healthy mouth is what you put into it: Foods that are sugary, sticky or highly acidic can result in plaque buildup and even canker sores, so test your child’s knowledge on foods that are good for the mouth versus foods that could cause these problems. Start by gathering a few supermarket fliers and another piece of paper, labeling it, “Good Foods” on one side and “Foods That Can Hurt My Mouth” on the other. Then, help your child to cut out different foods from the flier and glue them to the appropriate side of the page. Talk about each food and why it’s either a good choice or something to save as a once-in-a-while treat.
The real fun is in taste tests. Your child’s tongue is covered in taste buds that allow him to savor the sweet and recoil from the bitter, so put it to good use by assembling sweet, sour, bitter and salty items from your kitchen. Talk to your child about how taste buds send messages to the brain so people can identify their favorite foods and avoid the items they don’t like. Keep a tally as you decide which category of flavor his taste buds indicate each food belongs in. Given the results, you may need to ensure they realize that tastes can be decieving; just because something tastes good doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Adults know cavities can be damaging and painful, but children who’ve never experienced an early cavity might have a harder time understanding. Try this demonstration: Draw a tooth in permanent marker on a paper towel. Then, use a watercolor marker to place a dot on the tooth, explaining that a cavity is a small hole in the tooth. Drip a little water onto the “cavity,” showing the way it spreads when exposed to things like acid or sticky sweets.
With exercises like these, your child should quickly grasp how cavities and other dental conditions can infect the entire tooth if left unchecked.
When the holiday season comes around, there seems to be no shortage of candy and dessert around the house. Although it may be overwhelming and impossible to avoid all of these treats, there are plenty of safe and tasty snacks to satisfy young taste buds without interfering with your oral health. In fact, when preparing fun holiday treats with your child, you can include numerous healthy options that build strong teeth at the same time. Dr. Jaleel, your dentist in Ottawa is here to provide you with some tips and advice.
Treats to Avoid
When supermarket shelves are full of brightly packaged treats for the holidays, it’s hard not to fill your cart. But for the sake of your child’s braces, you still need to scoot past the hard, chewy and sticky foods. Children with braces should avoid caramel, licorice, lollipops, bubblegum, popcorn, taffy, jelly beans and hard pretzels. How come? Biting hard foods can bend or even break your child’s metal brackets.
Stick to Your Favorites
It’s hard to get away from sweet treats during the month of December. There’s the candy dish at the office, Aunt Mary’s triple-chocolate brownies, sugary hot beverages, tray upon tray of homemade cookies and even people handing out candy canes while you’re out running errands. Be picky when offered a goodie. Skip the items that are available throughout the year, such as store-bought cookies and M&Ms, and go for more special yummies guilt-free. Your teeth — and waistline — will thank you.
Clean your teeth after every sugary treat; perhaps consider a new toothbrush. This will help keep your mouth cleaner by reducing plaque buildup. Make it a household rule that candy, cookies, hot cocoa and other delicious foods are allowed only on condition that teeth be brushed immediately after the treats are eaten. Then make sure that everyone sticks to the rule, including Mom and Dad! This one step will go a long way toward teaching the whole family how to prevent cavities while keeping the season sweet.
Carry Oral Hygiene Tools with You
Lots of sweets are eaten outside of the home while shopping, visiting or attending parties. Pick up extra toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste for everyone in the family to carry with them. Trial sizes of mouthwash and dental floss complete the portable dental care package.
Chew Sugar-Free Gum
Chewing gum produces saliva. This helps to wash away bacteria. It’s also easier to resist treats when you have a piece of gum in your mouth. There is a wide range of sugar-free flavors on the market, including mint chocolate chip, cinnamon roll and apple pie à la mode.
Make Less Sticky Choices
Problems occur when the sugary coating remains on the teeth. Plaque loves the acids in sugar and other carbs. Choosing goodies that don’t leave a sticky coating, especially when you are not able to brush right away, reduces the risk of tooth damage. Enjoy a fresh fruit salad instead of a muffin for breakfast or pound cake instead of chocolate fudge for dessert.
“May I be excused?” When should parents bring their children in for their first dental check-up?
Just because they still waddle when they attempt to walk, it does not mean young children are excused from a visit to the dentist. Just when parents are getting used to having a new baby at home, the teething process is about to bring forth a new challenge. Usually beginning around 6 – 7 months of age, the eruption of the lower central incisor is usually hard to miss as it is often coupled with crying and biting. The Canadian Dental Association recommends infants get their first dental check-up 6 months after the eruption of their first tooth, or by one year of age. However, these guidelines are being ignored by Canadian parents, as a study published in the journal Pediatrics this month showed less than 1% of children receive dental care by 12 months of age and the number remains low as children reach the age of two, with less than 2% of children having visited a dentist.
Why Start Early?
By taking your child in to see Dr. Jaleel, she will be able to:
1) Take note of your child’s existing teeth and assess whether new ones are coming in properly.
2) Teach you the proper way to clean your infant’s teeth, or assess whether you are cleaning their teeth effectively. It is recommended that children younger than the age of 5 or 6 should have a parent clean their teeth for them. Learn the proper way to clean your child’s teeth with Dr. Jaleel.
3) Educate you on proper diet and nutrition for your infant to ensure their teeth are cavity-free. Sugar, whether from natural sources or bought from a bag can lead to cavities and tooth decay. What is important is how long the sugar stay in the child’s mouth. Since milk contains sugar, if you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, you are increasing the likelihood of your child getting cavities. By feeding your infant milk before bed, it allows the germs in your child’s mouth to feast on the sugar. This is just one of the many things Dr. Jaleel look forward to share with you when you come in for a visit.
4) Educate you on the effects of pacifiers and thumb-sucking on the development of your child’s teeth. Problems associated with the development of the mouth and jaw have been associated with pacifier use and thumb-sucking.
In addition to all of the above reasons, it is important to get your children exposed to dental visits early on. By visiting us early, it provides your child opportunities to get familiar with our dental clinic and the staff who works here. As your child age, we can provide answers to questions your child may have on top of teaching him/her all that goes into maintaining a healthy set of teeth. Dr. Jaleel, known for her gentle, caring and warm personality, never wants a child to be afraid of the dentist.
Health Smart Financial Service
Some parents may be holding out on taking their child to see a dentist because of financial reasons. We are here to help. Sometimes, employers will offer their employees medical and dental benefits. A Health Spending Account can cover your dental expenses using pre-tax income that is set aside for medical/dental expenses. What’s more is that you can use it for you AND your family.
More information on Health Spending Accounts can be found on our FAQs page, or simply call us at:
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We are conveniently located across from the Carlingwood Shopping Centre in Ottawa. Dr. Jaleel, your Ottawa dentist, puts you and your child’s dental health first.