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Providing Families Simple Ways to Improve Oral Health
Making oral care as easy as 1-2-3
Brush twice a day. Floss and rinse daily. Visit the dentist twice a year.
If you ask most patients who are parents, this is what they would say their family’s oral health routine should include. Most parents would also admit that despite their best efforts, getting children to maintain proper oral health can be challenging because of busy schedules. For this reason, dental professionals need to become trusted health resources for their patients and educate them on ways to help establish and maintain good dental hygiene habits, including when on-the-go between brushings and after meals.
Today’s Oral Care Epidemic
Before addressing how to better educate parents, it is imperative to understand the oral care epidemic facing this country. Dental disease is the leading chronic illness in children.1 One-fourth of children in the United States between the ages of 2 and 5 are affected by tooth decay, and half of children ages 12 to 15 have tooth decay.2
If left untreated, dental disease can wreak havoc on children and their families. Pain from infected teeth can cause malnourishment, speech impediments, and learning impairments. Later in life, dental disease can be linked to other health issues, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and pneumonia. The financial aspects of treating dental disease can also create a significant burden for families.1
Education Is Essential
When faced with statistics like the ones presented here, the need to further educate and support parents becomes evident. Assessing existing knowledge of what leads to dental disease and addressing any misunderstandings should be the first step in educating patients on proper oral care routines, which can be achievable and fun.
In fact, one common misconception patients may have is that their teeth are only susceptible to tooth decay while they’re sleeping. However, immediately after eating, during the waking hours between brushings, plaque acids can attack teeth, weakening the tooth structure and leading to decay over time, as well.
Redefine Daily Routines
After ensuring patients have a clear understanding of what can cause oral health problems, the next step is to redefine and enhance their basic oral care activities of brushing and flossing. Encourage parents to brush their teeth alongside their children to set a good example. This also allows parents to ensure children are brushing thoroughly. Remind parents to provide praise or even document children’s dental hygiene improvements by keeping track of when they brush, floss, and rinse.
Strategies for Oral Care Away from Home
Families have simple ways to help safeguard teeth from tooth decay when brushing isn’t possible. Parents can encourage children to drink water—stopping at water coolers or fountains or swishing water from bathroom sinks. Parents can also carry water bottles to rinse mouths and/or drink after eating, which will help avoid the need to purchase sugary drinks while on-the-go. Providing children with their own colorful water bottles is a good way to encourage them to be in the habit of drinking water after meals and drinks to help protect teeth.
Parents can also help protect teeth between brushings by encouraging their families to chew sugar-free chewing gum (eg, Orbit® for Kids gum, Wrigley, www.wrigleydentalcare.com) when out of the home or when it’s otherwise inconvenient to brush. Chewing sugar-free gum helps to increase saliva flow, clear the mouth of food debris, and neutralize the plaque acids that can lead to decay.
Providing parents with new and simple ways to make oral care more fun and achievable goes a long way with families—education can’t stop at the bathroom sink.
Fun and Achievable Oral Care
The main takeaway for parents should be that proper oral care can be achievable, gratifying, and fun. Dental professionals should share simple facts with parents to help them better understand dental disease and the importance of helping protect kids’ teeth in the home and on-the-go. Providing easy and enjoyable ways to enhance and supplement their family’s oral care routine will help establish and maintain good habits. Take time to have these dental health conversations with patients and help end the oral care epidemic.
About the Author
Amanda Seay, DDS
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
1. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Early Childhood Caries (ECC).http://www.aapd.org/assets/2/7/ECCstats.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2013.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health. Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers at a Glance 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/AAG/doh.htm. Accessed June 26, 2013.
FOR MORE INFORMATION About Wrigley’s Orbit® for Kids Gum
Wrigley’s Orbit for Kids gum (www.wrigleydentalcare.com/orbitforkids) has received the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. It is available in 14-piece envelopes and colorful Multi-Pack bags with 10 six-piece micro Packs.
Patient education materials to help spark the conversation about simple ways to supplement patients’ oral care routines, including the benefits of sugar-free gum, are free to download at wrigleydentalcare.com.