By Dr. Fallon Stiens

Does your child floss? Their teeth that is. Not the floss dance which I’m aware 99.9 percent of children know and can do way better than me. I’m on a mission to inspire tooth flossing to be just as cool. A lofty goal, I’m aware.

February is Children’s Dental Health Month and I’m enlisting you to help me with my goal. As a dentist, I’m here to help you care for your child’s teeth and I’m about to give you the insider’s guide to achieving great oral health.

A good oral hygiene regimen is key to protecting teeth and gums from disease. Starting good habits from an early age will protect your child’s teeth and will instill the importance of dental care. A regular routine of brushing for two minutes twice a day, after breakfast and before bed, and daily flossing of any teeth which touch is essential for a healthy mouth. A fluoride toothpaste is recommended as soon as your child’s first tooth has erupted, a rice-sized amount for younger children and a pea-sized amount after the child is able to spit. Parent assisted brushing is recommended until about third grade when children develop the hand dexterity to brush on their own. Fluoride rinses are available in many different kid-friendly flavors and can be used twice daily after brushing; just remember, no eating or drinking for 30 minutes afterwards.

In a world where there are hidden ingredients in a majority of grocery store finds, paying attention to labels is important. What we feed to our children is just as important as how often we are brushing their teeth. Would you be surprised to know juices and sports drinks which are marketed as healthy have nearly as much sugar and acid as a can of soda pop? Did you know your child’s beloved fruit snacks are so sticky and sweet they stay hidden in the grooves of teeth even after they brush? Cavity causing bacteria thrive on sugar and acid, which gives them the power to cause cavities. Healthy snacks like cheese, nuts, vegetables and fruits are smart snack choices for teeth, as well as limiting milk to mealtimes and choosing only water between.

Regular visits to your dentist are important. We recommend a child’s first visit as soon as their first tooth appears or by age one if no teeth are present. These visits are a short and painless appointment where we’ll check for any dental concerns and discuss care for your child’s smile. Early and regular visits help children become comfortable in the dental chair and allow us to address concerns which may be present before they are serious. We’ll allow some time for your child to show us their mad flossing skills and we’ll show you ours.

Along with our dental quest for coolness, check out these products to help make dental care easier and more fun for your child: Gum Chucks dental flossers, Smart Rinse plaque coloring fluoride rinse, Tanner’s Tasty Paste chocolate and vanilla toothpastes, electric toothbrushes which sync to a smartphone app, such as Oral B and Sonicare, and Ice Breakers Ice Cubes gum in delicious sugar-free flavors. Now that you have all the secrets, go get out that dental floss and get down with your bad self.