Limit the Halloween Candy Gobblin’
Children love Halloween. They get to dress up, go door-to-door with friends and collect bags full of candy. As a parent, you know this is a dental nightmare, but you also know that your children will feel immensely deprived if they are not allowed to participate. Of course, we would never suggest that you stop your children from enjoying Halloween. But we do encourage you to use this candy-collecting day to teach your little ones good dental habits.
Here are some practical ideas for what to do with all that excess Halloween candy, while ensuring cleaner teeth and sneaking in a quick lesson on moderation and generosity:
Add healthy foods to the mix. Combine sugary candy with healthier ingredients—such as seeds, nuts and raisins—for a homemade trail mix. This can be an entertaining activity for you and your children to do together, and the result is a tasty snack everyone can enjoy.
Donate a portion to a good cause. A variety of charities accept Halloween candy as a donation. One charity that supports members of the American military conducts an annual Halloween candy buyback program. Do some research online, and see what’s out there. You can let your children decide which causes they want to support, so they feel a sense of ownership over the decision.
Make art. Hard candies last a long time. That makes them especially dangerous when children suck on them because of the extended exposure time to the candy’s sugary, acidic content. On the flip side, that makes them perfect for art projects. Encourage your children to make sculptures, jewelry and collages out of their candy. Then, give their sweet creations a place of honor in your home.
Limit snacking opportunities. There are several ways to limit the amount of candy your children eat. One method is to give them one, and only one, candy-snacking session after they bring back their haul, and eliminate any items they do not eat (see the previous points for elimination ideas). You might also designate candy as a dessert-time food, to be eaten only after mealtimes, when saliva flow is elevated and sugars can more easily be washed away.
Want more tips on managing your children’s Halloween candy consumption? Ask us at your child’s next regularly scheduled checkup. Together we can avoid the real hair-raising fright—cavities!
Get Ready for Your Child’s First Dental Visit
Many of your baby’s brand-new experiences offer both joys and challenges. The first dental visit—which should take place by his or her first birthday, or no later than 6 months after the first tooth emerges—is no exception. Are you ready for this important milestone? Do you know what to expect? To help this first appointment go smoothly, review these preparation pointers:
- Stay positive. Talk about the upcoming trip to the dentist in a happy, matter-of-fact tone of voice. Introduce the topic further with age-appropriate books and videos about children’s visits to the dentist.
- Get ahead. In advance of the visit, pick up—or check our website for—the forms you will need to fill out. Doing so at your leisure is more convenient for you, saves time and allows you to focus more completely on your child during the visit.
- Phone a friend. If possible, ask another adult (with whom your child feels comfortable) to accompany you. This person can tend to the child, if necessary, while you speak to us about questions and concerns.
- Bring questions. The main objectives of the first visit are to examine your child’s mouth for any problems (unlikely, but possible) and to comfortably introduce your child to routine checkups. For you, the appointment serves as an opportunity to learn about your baby’s oral health care and ask questions. Prepare a list of questions in advance so we can address them.
- Choose the right time. Schedule the visit for a time you think your child will not be sleepy or hungry. Skipping a nap or postponing lunch to squeeze in the visit is a recipe for less-than-stellar results.
- Expect imperfection. Despite everyone’s best efforts, your child may squirm, fuss or even cry. To minimize this possibility, we will keep the visit as short as possible and allow your child to sit on your lap during the examination. All of us need to remember that this first-time patient is, after all, an infant. So don’t be upset if some tears fall. That absolutely does not mean dental visits will upset your child forever.
Before your child’s first dental appointment, do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns you may have. We will be happy to share more ways to make the experience a positive one.
The Tooth Fairy—Don’t Stop Believing
As your children grow, they start to lose their baby teeth, making room for a mouthful of permanent teeth. This rite of passage is often accompanied by the appearance of that mythical figure with the unlimited bank account—the tooth fairy. But you might be surprised to discover that the tooth fairy is a relatively new celebrity, whose surrounding folklore has evolved over the years. Where did the legend of the tooth fairy originate?
Literature from 13th-century Scandinavia mentions a tand-fé, or “tooth fee,” a payment made from parent to child when the child’s first tooth came in. According to various sources, some Viking warriors would later wear their children’s baby teeth as good luck charms, believing they would bring success and protection in battle. One 13th-century Arabic scholar detailed the practice of hurling a baby tooth into the air while praying for a better tooth to replace it.
Rituals in other cultures involve throwing baby teeth onto the roof, into a fire or toward the sun. Some South and East Asian societies have separate traditions for each kind of tooth—with bottom teeth thrown toward the sky and top teeth toward the ground. Other cultures have fed baby teeth to animals known for having strong teeth, including mice and squirrels, perhaps hoping to ensure the strength of their children’s permanent teeth.
The tooth fairy’s physical form has been portrayed differently in different societies. She has appeared in various human and nonhuman sizes, shapes and ages, and has even been depicted as an animal.
The custom of leaving a baby tooth under the pillow does not appear in American society until the 20th century. Even though some sources claim she was first mentioned in the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1908 as part of a “Household Hints” column, the tooth fairy did not become widely popular until baby boomers began to reach early childhood in the 1950s.
The market price for a lost tooth varies from fairy to fairy. Some studies suggest that the price fluctuates with the stock market. In the United States, as of 2016, the most common amount rewarded by the tooth fairy was $1, although the average payoff exceeded $3.
One valuation method we endorse involves pricing by condition. Tell your children that the tooth fairy pays more for healthy teeth than she does for teeth with cavities. For a better payout, they should brush at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and see us every 6 months for a checkup. It will benefit their dental health—and their wallets.
Don’t Just Cover Your Child’s Bad Breath—Uncover the Cause
It may have happened to you before: You’re talking with your child, and you notice that he or she has less than pleasant-smelling breath. Your first instinct might be to give your child gum or mints. But while gum and mints may be effective at masking breath odors, it is more important to identify and treat the underlying problem. Some of the main causes of bad breath in children, and how to address them, include
Poor oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing remove food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath. That is one of many reasons children should brush their teeth at least twice every day for 2 minutes at a time and floss at least once a day. They should also brush their tongues, which can harbor odor-causing bacteria.
Dry mouth. Saliva naturally washes away food particles and bacteria in the mouth. When a child suffers from dry mouth—due to certain medications, systemic conditions or a host of other reasons—the lack of saliva can result in lingering oral bacteria and bad breath. Children who breathe through their mouths at night—perhaps when battling a cold or congestion—are also prone to experiencing dry mouth, leading to an accumulation of bacteria in the oral cavity. We can recommend ways to promote your child’s saliva production, such as drinking more water or chewing sugar-free gum.
Oral infections. Cavities, plaque buildup and mouth sores have all been known to cause bad breath. When you bring your child in for a checkup, we’ll make sure he or she does not have an infection that needs to be treated.
Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes and using smokeless tobacco can lead to foul breath. Not only that, it often dulls the user’s senses of taste and smell, so he or she is less likely to notice the odor. This is yet another reason your teen should avoid tobacco use.
Offensive breath may be the result of eating pungent food, such as garlic, but it can also be a sign of possible infections in the mouth. In the event that you notice persistent bad breath when talking to your child, call our office to make an appointment. We will examine and clean your child’s mouth to ensure that it is healthy and free of infection. If need be, we can also review proper dental self-care for cleaner, fresher breath.
Dentists Play a Major Role in Weight Management
It might not seem obvious, but dentists play an enormously important role in preventing, detecting and treating childhood obesity. After all, the mouth is the gateway to the stomach, and what your children ingest—be it food or beverage—has a major impact on both their oral and overall health. Here are some ways we work to address the concern of overweight and obesity in our adolescent patients:
Offering nutritional health education
Often, nutrition is considered a topic for pediatricians, but we, too, are advocates for healthy eating. We have shifted from strictly focusing on educating children about what is healthy for teeth to reinforcing nutritional health guidelines from their pediatricians.
Weighing and screening
Pediatric dentists are also taking a larger role in monitoring children’s weight and body mass index (BMI). If young patients are not at a healthy weight and BMI, we will emphasize nutritional health recommendations. As your children’s dentist, we are in a position to suggest which foods to eat—and which to avoid. Sugary foods, for example, are bad for teeth and cause obesity. Combatting one condition, such as cavities, combats the other—weight gain.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has issued its evidence-based Policy on Dietary Recommendations for Infants, Children and Adolescents. It suggests that children
- eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods and beverages
- balance foods eaten with physical activity to maintain a healthy BMI
- maintain a caloric intake adequate to support normal growth and development and to reach or maintain a healthy weight
- choose a diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains that is low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol
- consume sugars and salt in moderation
Children’s dental and overall health are intimately related. Good pediatric dental care is an essential part of good pediatric care as a whole. Pediatricians understand this link and see dental care as an essential part of your child’s medical treatment, which is why they, too, recommend children see us for an appointment at least every 6 months.
Celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month
This October is the eighth annual National Dental Hygiene Month, a time when we not only celebrate the work that our hygienists do every day but also remind patients of all ages about the importance of taking care of their mouth and teeth. Has your family been diligent about oral hygiene? Take this opportunity to “brush up” on the Daily 4—four dental hygiene habits that you and your children should embrace for a lifetime of good oral health.
- Brush. You probably know that twice-daily toothbrushing is key to optimal oral health, but when was the last time you reviewed proper brushing technique with your children? Make sure they always hold their toothbrushes at a 45-degree angle to the gums and use short, back-and-forth strokes on one tooth at a time. Children should brush for a full 2 minutes, a minimum of twice each day.
- Floss. Dental floss and other types of interdental cleaners remove tiny food particles and biofilm from spaces between the teeth that toothbrushes cannot reach. Skipping regular flossing encourages the growth of biofilm in the mouth and increases your children’s risk of developing gum disease. Our hygienists will discuss interdental cleaning with you and your children, recommending devices that best fit your needs and teaching you how to use them most effectively.
- Rinse. The use of an antimicrobial mouth rinse further inhibits the growth of bacteria in the mouth, reaching spaces that neither a toothbrush nor dental floss can access. Ask us if a mouth rinse would be beneficial for your child, and choose one that carries the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. If your children are new to using mouth rinse, supervise them to ensure that it is not swallowed. Mouthwash is generally not recommended for children younger than 6 years of age.
- Chew. Chewing stimulates the salivary glands and helps wash away food particles from the teeth. Chewing sugar-free gum after a meal aids in cavity prevention, plaque acid neutralization and tooth strengthening.
Keep the National Dental Hygiene Month Daily 4 tips in mind, and use this month to reinforce good dental habits in your children. Our dental hygienists can answer any questions you may have and will help emphasize the importance of these habits, especially flossing. Make sure your children visit us every 6 months so we can go over best techniques and instill the importance of dental hygiene.