From Candy Canes to Christmas Cookies - First Things First
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From Candy Canes to Christmas Cookies– Does Your Child’s Dental Hygiene Routine Put You on Santa’s Naughty or Nice List?

Here are Five Tips to Ensure Children Unwrap the Gift of a Healthy Smile this Season
Hooray! The holiday season is here! For most parents the entire month of December will be a whirlwind of shopping, wrapping gifts, attending parties and keeping a close eye on the family’s Elf on a Shelf. As if that weren’t enough, caregivers have the additional responsibility of ensuring children continue to follow a consistent oral hygiene routine every day.
Studies show the average American spends 38.5 total days brushing their teeth over a lifetime. With so much time being devoted to oral hygiene, this statistic is the perfect reminder to start making dental care fun for the whole family. There are a number of incredible and affordable gifts that can be wrapped up for the holidays and put under the tree. These thoughtful presents will make children happy and guarantee that parents remain in Santa’s good graces.
“Even though it’s easy to go overboard, stocking stuffers don’t have to be sugar-laden and filled to the brim with sweet treats,” says Melissa Avant, First Things First Regional Director for the Cochise region. “There are dozens of other items that can actually promote good dental hygiene, while still being fun for children to unwrap and use every day.”
Although candy canes, sugar cookies and hot chocolate will be overflowing throughout the month, it’s no reason to let a child’s oral hygiene routine go to the wayside. In fact, it’s more important than ever to require kids to brush their teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. With babies and toddlers, parents will have to brush for them. Once children are around 7 or 8, they can brush for themselves, with adult supervision. The key is to ensure that everyone is brushing thoroughly for a solid two-minutes each time. Little ones should also floss daily. When tooth-brushing routines are disrupted because of holiday parties and vacations, tooth decay can quickly creep in and lead toward cavities in the new year.
In addition to limiting sweets and keeping children on their normal brushing routines, dentists recommend the following gifts to promote fun and healthy oral care:
New Toothbrushes: Not the typical kind, but colorful, musical, character-themed, electric or battery-operated varieties. Some of the newer models have flashing lights, catchy tunes and built-in timers that help children brush for a full two minutes.
Flavored Toothpaste: Think outside the box and look for flavors other than mint or bubble gum. There are fun varieties available for kids ranging from cupcake to watermelon and even chocolate – as long as there’s fluoride in it, why not add it to their stockings?
Flavored Dental Floss: Much like toothpaste, floss doesn’t have to be predictable and boring. Flavors such as wild berry, fruit smoothie swirl, coconut and bubble gum exist and will greatly enhance children’s willingness to floss their teeth.
Sports Mouthguard: Nearly 7 in 10 young athletes play basketball, football, baseball, soccer and more without wearing a mouthguard. This opens the door for chipped teeth and other injuries to the mouth, gums and teeth. Vibrant colors and patterns can be found to match with team uniforms or unique personalities while keeping those smiles safe from harm.
Sugar-Free Gum: When kids chew sugar-free gum after a meal it stimulates saliva to buffer the acid in their mouths and helps dislodge food particles trapped in their teeth. Gum containing the natural sweetener, Xylitol, is an especially solid option since studies show that consistent exposure to Xylitol can help prevent tooth decay. Sugar-free gum is recommended as a stocking stuffer for children over age 4, to avoid younger children’s tendency to swallow gum.
There is quite a bit parents and guardians can do during the month of December to keep their children’s smiles and mouths healthy. Regardless of hectic schedules, be sure to stick to an oral hygiene routine, limit their intake of sweets and load up on new gifts that promote both enjoyable and entertaining oral health. Happy Holidays!
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