A smile is one of the first things people notice and, as a mom, I’m trying hard to do my part to make sure my kids have bright, healthy smiles! Here are a few tips to make it easier and, dare I say, more fun, to keep those pearly whites healthy (because I know I’m not the only one checking for dry toothbrushes at bedtime!).
This post is sponsored by Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. All opinions are my own. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
I’m a teeth person. I think we all have things that we notice about people right away, and I’m a teeth person. It’s probably because I’ve invested so much in my own smile (wear your retainers, kids, or you’ll be paying for Invisalign when you’re an adult…ahem), and my son’s and daughter’s smiles.
Dental Care Is Important for Kids
My 13yo daughter just got her braces off a few weeks ago, and my son had a phase 1 orthodontic treatment with the expander and we’re looking at a full mouth of braces for him in the next year. All 3 of us are currently sleeping in retainers, and I’ve go a pretty penny invested in these kids’ mouths.
You know what? It’s worth it. A smile says a lot about a person, and being able to smile brightly and proudly directly affects your confidence. As a mom, I work every day to make sure my kids feel confident and comfortable in their own skin, and giving them tools they need to have a smile they feel proud to flash is an important priority for me.
Not only is it important for that confidence boost, but it’s important for their health. Kids with dental issues can have discomfort and pain, missed school days, and even bigger health issues later in life.
Parents Are Guardians of the Smile
Just as parents needs to teach their kids to be kind, work hard, tie their shoes, and make their beds, it’s our job to teach them the importance of oral health. We are their Guardians of the Smile! And here where I live in Pennsylvania, Guardian and Children’s Health Fund, the organizations behind the national “Guardians of the Smile” oral health partnership, teamed up with Scholastic to launch an education initiative to encourage parents to be their kids’ oral health heroes. I think this is genius!
Guardian is a leading dental insurance provider, and along with oral health experts from Children’s Health Fund, they’ve worked with Scholastic to create educational programs for kids across PA, specifically targeting the most at-need populations in Title 1 schools. These kids are going out to 5,000 classrooms in our state!
Want to get your school involved? Go here for more info. And then read on for tips on what you can do at home to launch your own campaign for a healthy smile!
5 Ways to Protect Your Kids’ Smiles: Be Your Child’s Oral Health Hero
While brushing and flossing can be seen as a thing we like to nag about, it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve got some 21st-century tips below on how to be your children’s Oral Health Hero.
You Spin Me Right Round: The Thrill of an Electric Toothbrush
My dentist recommended an electric toothbrush for me for years before I finally bit the bullet and bought one. And when I did, I got the 4-pack at Costco so every member of our family could have one. Not only do I feel like this helps us keep our mouths cleaner, but the kids love using them. (Check with your child’s dentist to see if an electric toothbrush is recommended.)
Believe it or not, they brush without me having to harp on it. They think it’s pretty fun, and I’m not here to tell them differently. If an electric toothbrush is not recommended for your child, let him or her pick out the brush they use. A favorite color or character could be all it takes to get them excited to brush.
A related tip: Flossing is as important as brushing, and this one is a REAL battle for some kids. You should start flossing for your child when teeth touch each other (so you don’t need to floss the first tooth or if there are gaps between teeth as they appear in young children). Once teeth erupt and are touching, flossing should be done daily, preferably at night. For older teens, a water flosser may be an option. I got one for my son when he first got his palatal expander, and it made a world of difference.
Alexa, Play Sunflower
Brushing for the correct amount of time is important, too. A quick swipe isn’t gonna cut it. Brushing twice a day for two minutes is where it’s at! My kids have an Amazon Echo in their bathroom (good LAWD the music they play in the shower…), and they can tell it to play a favorite song while they’re brushing.
The song is the timer, and they are happy to brush a little longer. Don’t have an Echo? You can probably play a song on your phone, or set a timer, or for little kids, sing a song for them.
Eat the Rainbow
We all know junk food is not good for a healthy smile. I’m not an extremist about not allowing my kids to eat candy, but I try to limit it. Make it easy for your kids to choose healthy foods by keeping them on hand and accessible.
Take them shopping with you and let them pick out some fresh fruit, veggies, and foods that are high in calcium like cheese, yogurt, and milk. Sugary drinks are also a special treat for us. Encourage kids to drink water for a healthy smile AND a healthy body.
Somebody’s Eyes are Watching You (They’re Your Kids’)
Do as I say and not as I do isn’t a good philosophy when it comes to oral health. You have to model good behavior, and there’s incentive to do it, too: As we get older, these dental problems become more and more expensive. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my money on ANYTHING other than a root canal. Anything at all.
Set a good example, and show your kids that brushing and flossing is something we do regularly, just like brushing our hair or getting dressed each day. Let them see you do it.
Visit a Kid-Friendly Dentist Every 6 Months
A lot of people have a fear of the dentist. I have a great dentist now, but there have been times when I wasn’t really a big fan myself. To make sure my kids never developed that fear, I found a local pediatric dentist and started taking them EARLY. I think they were each about 12 months old the first time we went.
Neither of them has ever been afraid of the dentist. (It might help that I pull them out of school and take them to lunch after their appointments!) Set a calendar reminder on your phone, or if you’re old school like me, on your wall calendar. And make the next appointment before you leave the office. The lunch tip is a good one if you can swing it, too. No one will tell the school. Wink, wink.
What Makes You Smile? Contest for Schools
If you’re a teacher, or maybe a PTO parent, check out the What Makes You Smile Contest. This is a fun way to get kids excited about their oral health, and have a look at these amazing prizes:
GRADES K–1 AND 2–3 WINNERS
- Student Prize: $250
- Teacher Prize: $250
GRAND PRIZE WINNER
- Student Prize: $500
- Teacher Prize: $500
- School Prize: Guardians of the Smile event
Learn More About Being Your Child’s Oral Health Hero
Check out the Guardians of the Smile resources from Scholastic to get even more helpful tips about how you can encourage great dental hygiene in your own family, and share it with your kids’ school! This is a free resource, and next to parents, teachers are the biggest cheerleaders for our kids’ self confidence and happy smiles.
Here’s to a lifetime of bright smiles from all of our children!
This content is for informational purposes only. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your child’s dental health, please contact your dentist’s office.