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Taking Care of Teeth over the Summer

July 07, 2011

Yea! Summer is here! No homework, visits to the beach, hanging out at the pool and going to camp. It all sounds fantastic. But as my son likes to tell me, I’m a “fun sucker”, because I also think about the cotton candy, sugary ice pops, unlimited snacks, soda and lemonade that can cause problems with your teeth. How do you balance the good with the bad and not feel as though you’re depriving yourself or your kids the “fun” foods of summer? How do you ensure that your children are really brushing their teeth when they go to a friend’s for a sleepover or are away at camp?

Here are a few ideas that might make summer tooth care easy:

 So, you’ve just visited the Madison Farmer’s Market and you couldn’t resist the kettle corn (few are capable of escaping its sweet and salty temptation). Once you’ve finished the bag, why not at least rinse your mouth with some water and then have a piece of sugarless gum. It helps to remove some of the debris that is stuck in your teeth. This is a great habit to teach your children – if you’ve eaten and it’s going to be a while before you can brush, have sugarless gum.
 Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Because saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production, it’s best to combine sugary treats with a meal.
 Who doesn’t love a lemonade stand? But your teeth don’t need all the sugar. Consider watering down the lemonade so you only get half the amount of sugar. Or why not just surprise a child by giving them 50 cents and not even taking the lemonade!
 Limit between-meal snacks. Each time you eat, acid is produced in your mouth that helps to feed the bacteria that causes cavities. It’s better to eat a bag of M&Ms all at once instead of having a few M&Ms every hour. For more information on the dangers of snacking click here: http://www.adamsdentalnj.com/education-resources/fact-sheets/sipping-snacking-tooth-decay.
 Think fruits and vegetables! This is one of the best things about summer. There’s nothing better than a Jersey tomato with a little salt and pepper. I’d take a handful of blueberries over cotton candy any day. Make your own ice pops with crushed watermelon or trying freezing grapes for a quick refreshing summer treat.

Getting your kids to brush regularly is like hoping my curly hair will have “good day” when I’m going out – easy to talk about, impossible to predict and no amount of products can ensure that it happens. Some children are eager to please and can appreciate why taking care of their teeth is worthwhile. However, most children are harder to convince. The importance of maintaining their teeth for when they’re older is lost on them.

 Forget scaring them with horror stories of losing teeth or having big cavities. Instead, I find that appearance factors more in their decision making. While talking about healthy teeth, bring up bright, white, beautiful teeth. Mention bad breath and what their friends might say if they smell bad. You’d be surprised how even six year old children want to look their best.
 While no amount of products will guarantee that they brush, I encourage you to find products that they like and want to use. Some children are very sensitive to flavors and may love Tom’s of Maine’s Silly Strawberry toothpaste but want nothing to do with the Orange-Mango paste. Buy small tubes for them to try before you plunk down $4 for a tube that will sit unused on the counter.
 Think electric. Children want power because they are surrounded with iPods and Game Boys. Let them choose an electric toothbrush with fancy colors and characters to make brushing more fun. If they’re going away to camp, consider an inexpensive version like the Crest Spinbrush My Way that they can customize for under $10 To keep at home, try the Sonicare for Kids.
 Encourage them to be a leader when they’re at a friend’s house or away at camp by being the one to get the group to brush their teeth.
 Check up on them every now and then and make sure their teeth look clean. Most adult I know are bad at brushing, so why do we expect our eight year olds to be amazing at it? If it looks like there is a spot they’re missing when brushing, show them in the mirror. Don’t yell, just talk about the germs that are bad for their teeth.
 Make a game out of brushing. School’s out and there’s a little more time in the day for fun. Have your child make a brushing calendar and agree before hand on some rewards after they’ve brushed twice a day for a week.

Hope you can make maintaining healthy teeth an easy part of your summer. If you any questions about anything in this posting, please email me at drallison@adamsdentalnj.com.

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