By: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP
We have all heard about the key elements to excellent oral health and hygiene for young children: brushing their teeth twice a day, before bed and after breakfast, with a smear of fluoride toothpaste on a soft child-sized toothbrush; providing tooth-healthy drinks, such as water, instead of sugary beverages; flossing between teeth as soon as you see that they are touching each other; and taking your child for regular check-ups starting when the first tooth erupts. We’ve discussed creating good brushing habits with your children and starting regular check-ups when their first tooth appears, but what happens after they have been seen by the dentist and are on the way to mastering daily dental routines?
On one of our recent posts, a mom mentioned that her little one likes to dip his/her toothbrush into a cup of mouthwash and rinse with that. It got me thinking, as I am sure many children would love to do that. What does it do to their teeth/mouth? Is it safe?
The instructions on the label of mouthwashes is that children under six should not use the product. This is likely due to the fact that many, but not all, mouthwashes have a form of alcohol in their liquid and it is not safe to be swallowed in large amounts. This is something you will want to discuss with your child’s dentist. There’s no need to wait for your child’s next dental visit, just pick up the phone and call your dentist and ask for current recommendations!
Also, it is important to understand that any ingredient that limits our normal production of saliva will actually be counterproductive and can even lead to more decay of our teeth. Saliva is very beneficial because it has a buffering effect on the “acid attack,” composed of acid waste products that are created when the bacteria in our mouths digest sugars and carbohydrates.
If your children are anxious to start copying your mouth washing techniques, my suggestion is to teach them how to floss instead. Flossing between two teeth that are touching is helpful because it breaks down the build-up of plaque between the teeth, which is essential to do because the toothbrush bristles cannot get in-between the teeth that are tightly spaced. It is important to help children with flossing because they do not have the manual dexterity to floss by themselves until they can write cursive. Be sure to move the floss gently under the gum line, where the germs causing decay are more likely to grow because that is where it’s dark and warm. The gum line is also where there are leftover food particles hanging out (which the germs love to eat). Flossing between our own teeth and our child’s teeth on a daily basis will disrupt the plaque traps and prevent the germs from building up. By demonstrating flossing between our own teeth on a daily basis, our children will want to copy us.
The manufactured “flossers” for children are very helpful because they are easier to grasp for small fingers and they fit into small mouths more easily, plus they are colorful and animated looking!
Have your children tried flossing? What age did they start? Remember to check out Choosy Kids CD and DVD collection for brushing songs and videos!
About the Author:Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP, CPNP-PC, is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has 20 years of experience in public health nursing, maternal and child health, family and community health promotion and has extensive health expertise in oral health, childhood obesity prevention and child nutrition. Click here to learn more about Amy.