Tips to guarantee children unwrap the gift of a healthy smile this holiday season
The holiday season is here, and for many parents, the entire month of December will be a whirlwind of shopping, gift wrapping, partygoing and monitoring the family’s mischievous little elf. Those tasks alone will keep parents and caregivers busier than usual, but adults have the additional responsibility of making sure children continue to follow a thorough oral hygiene routine every day.
Recent studies show the average American spends 38.5 total days brushing their teeth throughout their lifetime. With so much time being allotted to oral hygiene, this fact is a great reminder to start making dental care fun for the whole family. There are several amazing and affordable gifts that can be wrapped up for the holidays and put under the tree or in a stocking. These thoughtful presents will make children happy and guarantee that parents remain on Santa’s Nice List.
“Although it’s easy to go overboard during the holidays, stocking stuffers don’t have to be packed with sugar and filled to the brim with sweet treats,” says Melissa Avant, Regional Director for the First Things First Cochise Region. “There are plenty of other items that can actually promote good dental hygiene, while still being fun for children to unwrap and use every day.”
Sugar cookies, chocolates and candy canes may be offered to toddlers and preschoolers throughout the month. However, that’s no reason to let little one’s oral hygiene routines take a backseat to the hustle and bustle of the season. It’s more imperative than ever to ensure that kids brush their teeth thoroughly for two minutes at a time, at least twice a day. Additionally, they should floss daily and use an age-appropriate mouth rinse. When bed-time routines are disrupted with holidays, parties and vacations, tooth decay can quickly sneak in and lead to unwelcome cavities in the new year.
Along with limiting sweets and keeping young children on their normal brushing routines, dentists recommend the following gifts to promote fun and healthy oral care:
- New Toothbrushes: Not just regular ones, but upgrade to colorful, musical, character-themed, electric, or battery-operated varieties. Some of the newer models have flashing lights, musical features and built-in timers that help children brush for a full two-minutes.
- Flavored Toothpaste: Children are adventurous, so surprise them with flavors other than mint. There are unique varieties available for kids, including bubble gum, watermelon, grape, and fruit punch!
- Flavored Dental Floss – Much like toothpaste, floss doesn’t have to be predictable and dull. Flavors such as wild berry, fruit smoothie swirl, coconut and bubble gum exist and will greatly enhance children’s willingness to floss their teeth. Remember, children should begin flossing as soon as their teeth are grown in closely together. Typically, this occurs between 2-6 years old.
- Books: The gift of a good book is always appreciated by little ones. And when it comes to stories about going to the dentist, there are plenty to choose from. You can find familiar characters visiting the dentist at most local bookstores or online. These books will help familiarize your child with what a trip to the dentist entails and ensure their bi-annual visits are a positive experience.
- Sports Mouthguard: Even little ones playing pee-wee football and t-ball could benefit from the use of mouthguards, yet 7 in 10 young athletes do not wear a mouthguard while playing sports. This oversight can lead to chipped teeth and other injuries to the mouth and gums. Mouthguards in vibrant colors and patterns can be found to match with team uniforms or to children’s unique personalities, while keeping their smiles safe from injuries.
There is so much that parents and guardians can do during the month of December to keep their young children’s smiles and mouths healthy. Regardless of your family’s hectic plans, be sure to stick to an oral hygiene routine, limit their intake of sweets and stock up on fun gifts that encourage enjoyable and engaging oral health for the entire family.
For more information about creating healthy dental habits, including videos and activities for young children, visit Teeth.FirstThingsFirst.org.