Creating a healthy smile

February is marked as children’s dental health awareness month. Nationally recognized, the initiative seeks to improve healthy smiles across the nation by promoting the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others. Here is some simple advice for parents and children.

Feed Kids Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables that have a high volume of water (like pears, melons, and cucumbers) are low in sugar, and the crunching they require helps clean the teeth. Try to limit your child’s intake of foods like bananas and dried fruits because they’re higher in sugar. When your child does eat them, just be sure to brush their teeth after.

Stay Away from Sticky, Starchy Foods and Sugary Beverages

Foods like raisins, dried fruit, granola bars, cookies, hard candies, jelly beans, honey, chewy caramels, and syrup tend to stick to the teeth and are difficult for saliva to wash away. Sugary beverages such as soda and fruit juice also have a negative effect in your child’s mouth. They continuously coat the teeth with sugar, which can result in tooth decay. Have your child brush their teeth right after eating or drinking these items and try to focus their attention on foods that are unsweetened or sugar-free.

Make Better Bottles at Bedtime

When giving your toddler a bottle before naps and at bedtime, try filling it with plain water rather than sugary milk or juice. This will prevent their teeth from long-term exposure to the sugars that cause tooth decay. If giving a bottle of milk, try to brush their teeth before sleeping so that the sugars do not coat their teeth overnight.

Brush and Floss Your Child’s Teeth Every Day

Be sure to brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day and floss their teeth at least once a day to help remove plaque and food between teeth and below the gum line. Ask your pediatric dentist to show you and your child the most appropriate oral hygiene techniques. For children who battle with tooth decay, consider talking to child care centers, preschools or school on letting your child brush his/her teeth after lunch.

Schedule an Appointment with a Pediatric Dentist Early

Dental experts recommend taking your child for their first pediatric dentist visit no later than their first birthday or as soon as their first tooth erupts through the gums. Then, this should be followed by regular dental checkups and cleanings to prevent, treat, and detect dental problems early.

Healthy children start with healthy habits. Your child should have fun brushing their teeth. Consider making it a part of your family’s daily routine or have a two-minute dance party while brushing teeth. Also consider letting your child pick out a toothbrush and toothpaste with their favorite character or superhero.


Carrie Kube is a director for Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area Board. All thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the author and not the board and/or its community partners.