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CreativiTEETH: Innovative Ways of Teaching Kids about Dental Health
Remember that viral post of celebrities that were manipulated to appear like they had no teeth?
As hilarious as they were, they represent the harsh reality of what we would look like without our chompers. An aftermath of not taking care of teeth includes cavities, implants, tooth loss, etc. Pearly whites aren’t inherited, they are maintained. Or for those who were too late, artificially-made.
The best way to save on orthodontic expenses and avoid frequent visits to the dentist is to practice good dental hygiene habits ourselves. Kids, on the other hand, need a whole ‘nother language or method to understand the simplest concepts.
You can’t exactly instruct your children to sit and just listen to you drone on and on about how to take care of their teeth because 1: they have a short attention span and 2: you’re bound to get “Mom, this is boring!” reactions.
Anything that doesn’t include playing, candy, toys, cartoons or gadgets instantly disinterests toddlers.
The earlier they learn about keeping their teeth healthy, the better.
Here are some exciting ways to introduce dental hygiene to the little ones:
Make Use of Materials Available at Home
All you need is yarn, Play Doh (or any type of clay) and Lego to teach your kids the basics of flossing. Use the Play Doh as “debris” in between the prongs of the blocks, similar to plaque that gets stuck between teeth. Demonstrate how to use dental floss with the yarn. Plus, they really get a visual of the difference between flossed and unflossed teeth.
Kids can also use marshmallows by first forming them into incisors, canines and molars. Next, rearrange them into a teeth formation on a plate and keep them in place with peanut butter or jam. Parents may dip it in chocolate syrup to make it look “unhealthy” and get a reaction from kids. By using a clean toothbrush they can also practice proper brushing as well. Whether or not they want to eat the marshmallows after is their choice.
This activity requires 2-3 hardboiled eggs, various liquids of your choice (such as soda, orange or apple juice, etc). You start by soaking the hardboiled eggs for several hours. Once removed from the liquid, the stained eggs represent teeth before they are brushed. Give them time to brush the hardboiled eggs clean, then discuss how food can stain teeth and how brushing keeps them spotless and healthy.
Interactive Tools to Make Brushing Exciting
Toothbrush timers (so they brush more than 15-30 seconds) are sold in infant stores and online. If you don’t feel like spending, the use of phone timers is also an alternative option. For a more melodic brushing experience, parents may also utilize nursery rhymes as timers – challenge them to keep brushing as long as the song is still playing.
With the help of Barbie, the Disney Princesses, Marvel Superheroes or Spongebob, character toothbrushes with cute designs will also make the kids actually look forward to brushing. Others may also find battery powered toothbrushes amusing to use.
Bubblegum, strawberry, watermelon or practically any fruit flavored toothpaste and dental floss also make dental hygiene more appealing and stimulating.
Take Advantage of Online Resources
Video resources such as YouTube have plenty of teeth related tips, tutorials, cartoons, fact-filled short films and music videos related to teeth. Movies such as the Tooth Fairy, Tooth Fairy 2 and Finding Nemo, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) can also be used as introduction to the tooth fairy, baby teeth loss, braces or teeth in general.
For instance, there are also plenty of cartoons that incorporated tooth fairies, dentist visits and first loose tooth moments in their episodes like Sesame Street, Barney, Charlie Brown and Arthur.
In addition to informative videos, you may also find various infographics and humorous cartoons or “memes” related to teeth on the web.
There’s an app for almost anything nowadays, including dental related ones for kids to use and play with. Apps such as Kool Smiles, Chomper Chums, and Brush Time are kid-friendly mobile applications that have timer features, a calendar for future appointments, reminders, tips, coloring sheets and games.
Not everything has to be learned in school or from books. Children can learn from playing, too.
The American Dental Association (ADA) celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month every February. Families have the option of attending activities and local observances like health fairs, free dental screenings, exhibits or poster and essay contests.
For those unable to participate, ADA’s website provides links to printable worksheets, activities and materials in line with the theme of the year.
Tales about Teeth
Bed time storytelling never fails. For the more “traditional” parents who still prefer the bookish approach of introducing the world of dental hygiene, here are some stories to help encourage good brushing habits:
1. The Tooth Book – Dr. Seuss
2. Behold, No Cavities! A Visit to the Dentist (Feat. Spongebob Squarepants) – Sarah Wilson
3. Open Wide: Tooth School Inside – Laurie Keller
4. The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist – Stan and Jan Berenstain
5. The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums – Edward Miller
6. Arthur’s Tooth – Marc Brown
7. Dear Tooth Fairy – Alan Durant
8. Brush, Brush, Brush! – Alicia Pardon
9. Pony Brushes His Teeth – Michael Dahl
10. Clarabella’s Teeth – An Vrombaut
For the more imaginative youngsters, role play or playing pretend may also be an effective educational method.
All you have to do is pretend you are the patient and your kid is the dentist. The use of candies and chocolates can be used as supplementary props to represent cavities and other dental infections. Allow them to comment on the condition of your “teeth” and to come up with solutions and habits that should have been taken proactively.
This helps the kids understand the importance of regular dental checkups. It also helps in easing their dental anxieties, if any. Remind them that dentists are friendly doctors that fight bacteria, cavities or any sort of germs found in the mouth.
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