Healthy heaps of gratitude and food have recently blessed us all. As
the Thanksgiving Week-end draws to a close, we wish we could preserve the holiday’s sense of appreciation all year round. Here at Dentistry for Children, we often say, “Gratitude is our Attitude,” even when Thanksgiving Day has passed.
We Salute the Healthy Holidays Ahead
As we leave Thanksgiving, and officially begin the initial planning of the season of the largest winter Holidays, we feel a new awareness of the beautiful relationships and the blessings in our lives. Let us go on record now as admitting we are grateful every day for our young patients.
We are also grateful for their parents and their caregivers. Likewise, we pause now before the Holiday rush accelerates, to thank you, our colleagues, blog-readers and our friends for being involved in your children’s dental care.
Oral health represents the health of the entire body, and we never tire of spreading that message. Although we hope we do not sound too repetitive, that idea increases in importance as the holiday season progresses.
Healthy Dental Habits through the Holidays
Sweet treats and school-free schedules invite a few bad habits.
You might already be aware of this fact. About this time every year, we search for healthy tips and hints to make it easy to guard your children’s dental health over the holidays.
Shopping, decorating and visiting can disrupt children’s schedules. And the holidays last just long enough to invite dental decay. You see, it’s easy for children to consistently forget to brush.
Likewise, they sometimes brush, but they race through the process fast and furious without close supervision. We’ve seen more than one guilty look on a parent’s face when dental x-rays reveal new cavities. Remember the value of a little bit of time together time and maintaining a schedule during brushing and flossing.
Healthy, Champion Teeth: Going for the Gold
Holidays present a tempting time to overindulge in sticky sweet foods and drinks, whether you are a child or an adult. From now until Valentine’s Day, we will see tempting treats for every age level.
It is certainly a tough time for teaching healthy eating habits to our children. Yet, it is an important time to keep tooth decay at bay. Would you be surprised to know that even athletic champions find it difficult to eat healthy foods at this time of year?
Healthy Olympians? A Story of Olympic Dental Failure
The London Eastman Dental Institute published a study of the London Olympic athletes. When the publication was released, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine after the tests, the results revealed:
- 55 percent of the athletes had cavities,
- 76 percent had gingivitis (inflammation or infection of the gums)
- And 15 percent had periodontitis. Periodontitis involves inflammation or infection of the gums. It spreads to the ligaments and bone, which erodes the support to the teeth.
As we here at Dentistry for Children, read the statistics, we were dismayed. Not only were we surprised by the above numbers, but by the fact that fifty percent of the athletes did not attend an annual dental examination. Nor had they made appointments for professional tooth cleaning during the previous year or dental hygiene care in the previous year.
Healthy Holiday Moderation of the Sweet Treats
“Dentistry for Children” believes that you, the parents and care-givers, can be your child’s oral hygiene coach of more than Olympic stature. Even the smallest athlete understands the gold medal, and First Place. Yet, as you saw in the story above, apparently some athletes neglect this one area of their health.
Basically the dental study revealed that the oral health of the above athletes was poor. In contrast, athletes, especially Olympic champions, are known for healthy diet, exercise and training.It was not their tennis, soccer, gymnastics, or track and field coach who let these athletes down. No. No one wears a sweatshirt that imprinted with the title Oral Hygiene Coach.
But we all know the duties of coaching for brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups lie with the parents or major caregivers in the formative years. So, we say to you, even if your children are now babies, “Hi, Coach!”
Clinging to a Diet for Healthy Teeth
Likewise, you must coach healthy eating habits although the holiday
world presents us with sugar dipped, sugar coated, sugar-sprinkled and saturated treats. It’s up to you, dear oral-hygiene-parent-coach, to instill a taste for crispy greens sprinkled with strawberries in a light yogurt dressing. That’s a better choice for healthy teeth than caramel-laced-fudge, sprinkled with candy-cane chips.
Remember, as we have said previously, some of the traditional holiday candies such as peppermint canes, toffee, taffy, and caramel are the worst candy offenders on our naughty list! They cling to teeth long after the enjoyment is gone. Then the sugars present a perfect feeding ground to bacteria, setting up caries or tooth decay.
Matthew Messina, DDS, a dentist in Fairview Park, Ohio, advises, “If you do indulge in sweets, be sure to follow it up with drinking water or, even better, brushing and flossing.” This goes for children of any age!
Coaching for Good Dental Hygiene
Without well-developed habits during the early years of life, good oral hygiene is a habit easily broken. Obviously, the young champions in the British study above, were saddened and embarrassed by their neglected teeth. In latter interviews, they expressed regret. The study stated, “Many of them felt it had a negative impact on their athletic performance and well-being.” Indeed, this study is only one of many that proves our concept: neglecting oral hygiene has strong health-related consequences.
Whether the reason is a holiday from school or an international competitive sports trip, changes in schedule and neglect of oral hygiene can invite painful tooth decay and gum diseases to tear down your health and well-being. At 3, 13 or 23, years of age, teeth reflect your championship health.
Parent and Caregiver: Healthy Holidays or Not, You Are the Oral Hygiene Coach
This year, it is up to you to coach your child through the holidays with lots of brushing and flossing. Then step-up the championship program by controlling a minimum of sugar plum fairy sweets.
It’s not near as hard as coaching hook shots or drop-kicking. But it must be practiced very regularly, especially during holidays. Developing an instinct for healthy habits that lead to a healthy mouth is your coaching challenge. Here at Dentistry for Children, we call it coaching “dental awareness” within your child.
Going for the Gold with Healthy Teeth and Gums
When we say, “Go for the Gold,” We don’t want to see you and your children going for the gold as in golden teeth, but we want you to have a go-for-the-gold-attitude when it comes to training children in healthy habits for their dental care. As the old saying goes, you “don’t have to take care of all your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.”
We advise you get a timer or a coach’s whistle or both, to aid you in the 2 minutes of tooth brushing performance for morning and night. We are not saying you should make this brushing work-out tough or boring, but rather have fun with it.
Although brushing can only be made an exciting activity up to a certain point, the nightly attention can become a fun part of your family’s routine.
Healthy Hints to Help Holiday Oral Hygiene Coaches
Other hints that might help you coach dental awareness, include offering ADA-approved xylitol gum after or instead of a treat.
- Also, once a treat has been enjoyed, encourage your child to drink a glass of water. Teach the idea of swish and rinse, if it is impossible to go brush after a treat.
- Instead of treat-time, encourage your children to enjoy a sweet at the end of the meal with brushing soon to follow.
It’s a lot to expect twice a day from your youngest little athletes, but nothing is a better reward than approval from the coach. It’s true, stickers make great little rewards, but children really crave the gold of your praise.
We cheer you on as we plunge into the holiday planning season, our parental-oral-hygiene-coaches and our little athletes!