autumn days

Friday, March 25, 2011

Dental Health

Hannah's first dental visit at age three
Dearest Hannah,

It seems strange to be talking about dental health, perhaps since it is something most people don't bring up in conversation.  But it is something that effects us all, even those too young to have their first set.  Dental health has always been on my mind, as my type A personality wants me to have healthy teeth as an older adult.  I've picked up information here and there, but definitely not from a single source.  It sometimes feels like dentists are too busy fixing the damage to help us entirely prevent damage.  I haven't been to a good dental class since I was in the first grade and tried my first piece of cauliflower.  Much of my dental knowledge comes from trial and error, and everyone's opinions may be different on the subject.

Hannah, you had mama's milk to get you to sleep until you were two and a half years old, though we brushed your teeth every day before naps.  At two and a half years old you had a "ride in the dental chair" and went with me for my dental visit.  When you turned three, you patiently endured your first dental cleaning and exam.  Your pediatrician said you didn't need to see the dentist until age two or three, and so I personally bombarded him with dental questions until you saw a dentist.  Your health insurance didn't cover dental visits until you turned three, so that's when you first officially saw a dentist.  We continue to brush your teeth after breakfast and before nap and bedtime, along with a flossing before bed.

With baby Liam, you and I have already talked about how we'll very gently brush his teeth as soon as they pop up.  I want you both to have the best start with your dental longevity, as you're going to want to spend as little time as possible in the dental chair and keep your teeth healthy into your later years.  I am no dentist, but below I'm sharing my meandering knowledge I've learned from time in the dental chair.  May they serve us all well.  (Readers, please feel free to share your own dental knowledge in your comments as well.)

Brushing for family health,
your mama

*floss once or twice per day
*those who floss have better heart health, perhaps as they are more health-conscious
*brush after each meal
*rinse mouth thoroughly with water if unable to brush after a meal
*food starts eating the tooth's enamel after 20 minutes
*electric toothbrushes are more thorough
*replace your soft bristled toothbrush after each cold
*brush gently on your gums and teeth for 3-5 minutes each time
*start brushing at different places in your mouth occasionally so you don't favor one area over another
*start cleaning baby's teeth with a wet washcloth or gentle brush as soon as there are teeth
*baby shouldn't have a bottle propped in mouth alone
*try to get baby to sleep for a long nap with a pacifier instead of a milk bottle, or brush teeth right after nap
*kids won't need braces until teenage years, unless there's something serious
*adult should brush a baby's and child's teeth to keep them clean
*a child should practice brushing, but an adult should also brush to make sure teeth are really clean
*children will have better dental habits if they see their parents brushing and flossing regularly
*avoid juice unless a special occasion (we stick with milk at meals or water, saves money too)
*try to make brushing and flossing fun with songs or riddles, such as Raffi's Brush Your Teeth song
*talk about random things while brushing your child's teeth: what food I see in her mouth, our schedule
*Trader Joe's has soft-bristled, recyclable toothbrushes.
*investment in your teeth; fork out the money for quality work before there's more trouble in your mouth
*opt for a filling over a crown when possible (with a crown, say goodbye to caramel and gum)
*get fillings when the cavities are small and less expensive
*see your dentist every 6-12 months for a cleaning and exam
*you can make your own toothpaste out of baking soda and peppermint extract

(Again if you'd like to share your dental tips, please post a comment below.)

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