I receive hundreds of press releases in my Grandma's Briefs mailbox each week. I get lots of info on lots of things: good things, scary things, important things, fun things, nifty-gadgety things. And more often than you might think, bizarro things that make me wonder why in the world the PR folks thought I'd appreciate such information.
One of the recent scary-but-important things I received was a press release relaying the information that, according to top U.S. dental associations, the United States is experiencing a resurgence in childhood tooth decay. An especially interesting stat was that dental disease is now the top chronic health problem for children, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The news made me thankful Bubby recently had his first dental visit, where he, his pearly whites, and his teeth-brushing techniques were given an A for effort.
Part of the reason dental disease is such a problem nowadays, according to the information, lies in the fact many parents don’t think baby teeth are important, as they’ll be replaced by a child’s permanent teeth. Also, some pediatricians—my grandsons’ included—typically recommend a child first visit the dentist at three years of age. Dental associations, though, have recently updated their recommendation for dentist visits, saying it should happen once the very first tooth erupts.
Which means Bubby, at four years old and with a mouthful of teeth, was way late in getting to the dentist. And that even Mac, at 13 months but well on his way to a full mouth, needs to get in the dentist's chair pronto.
Dental care is a parent's duty, not a grandparent's. In light of the stats and the updated info, though, here are a few ways grandparents can help promote good brushing habits and cavity prevention in their grandchildren:
• Encourage parents (without overstepping your boundaries, of course) to take the kiddos to the dentist as soon as that first tooth is celebrated.
• Be sure grandchildren brush morning and night when staying at your house. Have fun (and spare) toothbrushes on hand, as well as flavored toothpastes that appeal to the little ones. Perhaps make a game of it and brush together. Also, be sure to supervise the older ones and do the actual brushing for little ones.
• When seeking small gift ideas, consider giving new toothbrushes and toothpastes featuring a child’s favorite characters. Or maybe a battery powered one, if a grandchild doesn’t have one at home.
• Limit candy, soda, and sweet treats that aren’t good for teeth.
• Same goes for fast food and processed foods, which are typically high in sugar.
• Never share eating utensils with children as that can transfer cavity-producing bacteria from your mouth to theirs.
• Keep on the lookout for tooth decay and halitosis (bad breath). If noticed, mention it—again, tactfully—to Mom or Dad.
• Read books together that focus on good dental habits. Consider ABC Dentist: Healthy Teeth from A to Z by Harriet Ziefert as well as the numerous books in which favorite characters—Dora the Explorer, Berenstain Bears, Elmo, Spongebob—visit the dentist.
Unless you’re in the dental field, you probably don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the dental care of your grandchildren. Grandparents are in a perfect position to help promote good brushing habits and cavity prevention, though, so it can't hurt and will surely help.
Bubby and Mac best prepare to get a fair share of toothbrushes from Gramma going forward. Though I have a feeling gifts of toothbrushes will be accepted by my grandsons in a manner similar to that of Bubby's robot dishes.
If nothing else, they'll have healthy teeth to grit while expressing their (forced) appreciation for Gramma's gifts.
What's the going rate per tooth from the Tooth Fairy in your family, in the past or nowadays?