Helping You With Healthy Habits
Posts for category: Children's Dental Health
Molly Molar smiled her persistent smile as a friend talked about happy teeth, fuzzy teeth and sugar bugs.
"Happy teeth are the ones that are smooth and shiny," said Sharon Kuttler, a dental hygienist with the Kuttler Dental Team, while standing next to the huggable, human-sized tooth.
The duo visited Marshall Elementary School preschool, kindergarten and first-grade students in March to help teach healthy dental habits.
Kuttler has made visits to schools for years. Recently, she updated her materials when she joined the National Children's Oral Health Foundation, known as America's ToothFairy. The foundation tries to eliminate children's preventable suffering from pediatric dental disease by providing programs and resources to deliver community-based preventive, educational and treatment services.
Kuttler said she got "carried away" and put together a resource guide, The Tooth Fairy's Toolbox, for local teachers to help them prepare class projects during National Children's Dental Health Month in February.
Nicole Plachetta, a Marshall kindergarten teacher, took those guides and transformed them into packets for some Marshall teachers to help with classroom dental health activities.
"As teachers, we're always looking for community members to come in and speak with the kids," Plachetta said.
She added that she was excited to have Kuttler talk with the students and not only show them the importance of good dental health but also that they can be dental hygienists.
Here are some tips Kuttler and Molly Molar, played by Rhonda Pope, shared:
- Brush and floss at least two times every day.
- Brush 10 times in every place. It should take 2 minutes to brush your teeth.
- Establish good teeth habits at an early age.
- Children need help flossing through first grade. All children should be supervised until they turn 8 to ensure they brush and floss their teeth correctly.
- Know what is considered good food and bad food for teeth. For instance, white milk and water are good foods and pop and apple pie are bad foods.
- Use your smile to be happy and healthy.
This article, written by Stacey Becker, and photograph, taken by Jeremy Portje, appeared in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald in March 2013. Both are republished here with permission from the Telegraph Herald.
One of the things I most enjoy about being a dental hygienist is helping parents and children from the very beginning (even before the baby is born!) to know the healthy habits that can influence dental health for an entire life.
February is the month that we put a national spotlight on children’s dentistry with National Children’s Dental Health Month. Often, it is the time when teachers will bring dental health education into the classroom. Throughout my career it has been a joy to be invited to a variety of classrooms to talk about teeth, nutrition and the how-to-do-its.
This year I joined The America’s Tooth Fairy Project through the National Children’s Oral Health Foundation, founded by Esther Wilkins, the woman who literally wrote the textbook on dental hygiene - including the one I used in my own educational preparation. With my membership I also received a package of new dental health education materials! Opening up my new box of possibilities, I noticed some of the ‘props’ I have been using had started to look a little tired. That inspired me to investigate other new resources.
The world of online and social networking came to my aid, and I have a whole new set of tools to share! While I began my research to assist teachers for classroom projects and activities, I have found a wonderful treasure of videos, interactive activities and information that could be used by parents (and grandparents!) at home as well as teachers in the classroom.
I am delighted to share my 'toolbox' with you and hope that you will find something here to be a resource for the children in your life. We need all the ‘tooth fairies’ we can get!
Ad Council Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives
Great videos, information, and helpful ideas for parents, children and educators
National Institute of Health: Open Wide - Trek Inside
A series of age appropriate materials, including kid-friendly videos that parents and teachers will love
American Dental Association
The Smile Smarts Oral Health Curriculum is designed for preschool through grade eight students — offering flexible lesson plans, support materials, hands-on classroom demontrations, student activity sheets and suggestions for further oral health activities
California Dental Hygienists Association
Excellent resources for teachers that are specific to different age groups
Cases for Student Dental Hygienists
The 'Classroom Activities, Community Dentistry and Public Health' section (used for dental hygiene students) has some great ideas including these PowerPoint presentations
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control
A good list of links, including resources for Head Start programs and other early childhood programs
Colgate Bright Smiles, Bright Futures
Educational resources for brighter smiles and futures with dental care activities, information and more
Colgate Oral Care Education - Health Dental Care Habits Information for Educators
Free educational materials to teach children the importance of dental hygiene by building a fun brushing and flossing routine together (also promotes Colgate products)
Practical tips for parents looking to break sucky habits:
1. Don’t Plug the Baby
Because no parent likes to hear their baby cry, it can be tempting to help, hush the baby by plugging in a pacifier, thumb or bottle. Weigh this impulse against the possible long-term difficulties and address why the baby is crying. Try the reassurance of holding the child for a period of cry time to release the day’s energy and allow the child to fall asleep before encouraging the thumb, finger or pacifier.
2. Pacifier or Fingers and Thumbs
A pacifier has the major advantage that it can be gradually limited during the day, and eventually used at bedtime only. While habitual sucking on anything can create dental malformations, pacifiers may exert less pressure against the teeth than thumbs. However sucking can be more intense with a pacifier, which leads to greater potential for a dental cross bite. NEVER dip a pacifier in something sweet to encourage use; this has devastating effects on baby teeth as they come in. Speech–Language pathologist at Mercy Service Club Autism Center Laura Keehner advised parents to “choose a pacifier over a thumb and keep the habit to sleeping time and not all day long.” She explained that this allows for more normal tongue and articulator movement during the waking hours, so toddlers don’t “talk around” a pacifier.
3. Reducing the Habit
After age two the sucking habit is less a physical need and is more emotional. The longer the habit persists the more difficult it is to break. If your child has celebrated his second birthday, you should consider reducing pacifier use.
Start by noticing when and where the sucking is prevalent; is it with a favorite toy or blanket? You can start by limiting the ‘props’ during the day, keeping them only in the bedroom. Offer reassuring hugs instead of putting something in the child’s mouth (including food, milk or juice). Avoid reacting strongly to these limits; rather than ‘rules’ use good humored, gentle reminders such as “teddy stays in your crib” or “no blankets in the kitchen.”
4. Stay Positive
As soon as the child is able to engage in self-responsibility, the process of ending the finger or thumb habit can begin. Ending the habit is more of a process than an event, and it’s critical that parents approach this with gentleness and kindness, or the habit may become more intense. No punishing, no negativity—only measures to reinforce and assist, so you can positively work together. The child must also be at a stage where she is psychologically equipped to want to change, and choose to participate in the process. Think of this like potty training time, when time and intent are focused on the desired outcome. Understanding the readiness of the child is the key to success with changing these habits. Discuss it, but don’t make it an argument. A gentle discussion at a dental visit can help set the stage to move in the right direction.
Dr. Valerie Peckosh, a Dubuque dentist who specializes in pediatric dentistry, shared ideas that have worked well in her practice. To be successful, all of these require the commitment and willingness of the child and the patience and perseverance of the caregivers to stay with the process. Use encouragement and positive words like “this will help you remember” or “this will help remind you to choose” rather than “this will make you stop.”
- Use a positive reward system. Keep a chart, decide on a gift or treat.
- A fabric style band-aid on the finger or thumb can be a helpful daytime reminder.
- Attach a sock with a few stitches to a pajama sleeve to help keep thumbs and fingers out of the mouth during sleep time.
- For known ‘sucking times,’ use a distraction technique to keep hands busy. For example, carry extra toys in the car to occupy the child’s attention, or at home have a squeeze ball available when watching television.
Any parent will tell you that this process can wear on your patience, but in those moments, remember the peace and comfort the pacifier or thumb brought. Then look ahead to the beautiful smile your little one will shine back at you.
This blog post is continued from Sucky Habits: Part One.
The original article appeared in Parenting Today & Tomorrow magazine.
It can begin even before birth, it can give comfort and security and it can ultimately cost a lot of money to solve the problems that it can create. What is it? It is your child’s thumb- or finger-sucking habit, or use of a pacifier.
But isn’t the sucking impulse essential? Absolutely! Sucking is the only way an infant takes in nourishment. It is a newborn’s reflexive response that seeks food, comfort, soothing and the transition from wakefulness to sleep. The big question is: How and when is it time to stop?
With ongoing sucking habits, changes in the development of the mouth and teeth can start between the ages of two and three years. The duration, intensity and frequency of the habit can increase the potential for later problems.
The longer the sucking habit persists, the stronger the sucking habit is and the more often your child uses their finger or pacifier, the higher the probability that your child will have structural orthodontic problems—a cross bite in the back teeth (where the top teeth fall inside the bottom teeth when you bite down), or an open bite (that pushes up the roof of the mouth and pushes the teeth out and forward). “Buck teeth” that stick out, or a “tongue thrust” that can lead to a lisp are also possibilities.
Dr. Chad Morarend, an orthodontist with Dubuque Orthodontic Associates, said that “prolonged sucking behaviors result in the malalignment of the teeth and underlying bones. We encourage early diagnosis and timely orthodontic intervention.” He recommends early diagnosis to treat “simple orthodontic problems before they become complex and more expensive.” Discussing dental development is a great reason to make that first visit to the dentist by your child’s first birthday.
So what can a parent do to both use this comfort tool but also know when it’s time to make some changes?
As with most things—especially in dentistry—prevention is key. Many children stop the sucking habit on their own, especially if it does not become a battle of wills between parents and child. A conversation with your dentist or physician can assist you in assessing the appropriate timing related to the emotional and physical development of your child.
Be sure to check back next week for a list of practical tips to help break these sucky habits!
This article orginally appeared in Parenting Today & Tomorrow magazine.
Wesley just celebrated his first birthday - and WE celebrated his first visit to our practice!
You may ask, "What can you do with a one year old at a dental visit?" Our answer: "LOTS!"
The entire Kuttler Dental Team is committed to helping you with the healthy habits to prevent dental problems - and what better time to begin than at the very start?
Before a child is even born, we are discussing preventive care with expectant parents and helping mothers care for their dental health during their pregnancy. We prepare our families with what to expect and what to be doing in those first few months, from taking care of the baby's gums and new teeth to starting good habits and dietary choices. As any new parent will tell you - so much happens so fast in those first months! We want to help the caregivers of our future little patients know what to do and why.
By the first birthday there will be some teeth to look at, some developmental clues to future issues, and lots of homework to discuss with caregivers. At the first appointment our dentist, Bill, does a thorough examination and answers any questions about the child's history and potential issues.
One of the things that sets us apart from most dental practices is that ALL children see a registered dental hygienist for their appointments. I have been fortunate in my dental hygiene career to have practiced with exceptional pediatric dentists, been employed as a dental consultant for Head Start programs, and presented dental health education for pre-natal classes. Those learning opportunities have helped us create a unique approach to how we work behaviorally and clinically with children in our practice. So when I see a child for their first visit (and for every visit from then on), we are developing a trusting relationship that will help each child not only have a healthier mouth and bright smile, but a positive attitude about going to the dentist.
Besides the examination, oral cleaning and fluoride treatment, the first visit with us is also a 'dental play date'! At this visit and each one after, we work to familiarize each child with who we are, what we do, what they need to do, and why. We make each visit educationally age-appropriate so that we can maximize our impact on what each child takes home and carries forward until we see them at their next visit. Special notes and letters to children reinforce our times together. Our loving and interactive environment builds trust and security, as well as good dental habits.
We look forward to seeing Wesley in 6 months - and working together with his parents to create not only a very bright and positive dental future, but also helping him with a positive attitude about dentistry and good dental health for his entire life!
-- Sharon Kuttler, R.D.H.
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