As the new year approaches, many of us are thinking of ways to improve on the choices we made in 2019. Whether we state them out loud or resonate on them mentally, New Year’s resolutions become a hot topic this time of year. The idea of a fresh start is oftentimes enough to motivate effective change. We want better for ourselves, and this includes our habits, growth, and health. Amidst the promises to exercise more and cut down on carbs, some equally important healthy practices can become neglected.
Like all other aspects of our wellness, maintaining good oral health is important to achieving a good quality of life. In wanting health and happiness for ourselves and our families, we must understand that some of our efforts must be geared towards our dental wellness. The problem for many of us does not lie in our willingness to make these changes, but in knowing where to begin.
There’s so much we can do to put our kids on the path to better oral health, but I thought I’d help get your list started with these 7 resolutions.
Make an Appointment
The first step to a healthy 2020 should be to establish a good dental home. It’s easy to have the intention to provide your kids with regular dental care, but lack of proactiveness can often cause this goal to die. If your family does not already have a dentist, now is the best time to change this. Make time to schedule an appointment for your child with a board-approved dentist in your area and commit to taking them to their dental visits.
Lead by Example
Making sure your own dental practices are exemplary is essential to getting kids on board with significant changes. Children model what they see. If you brush, they will brush. If you prioritize your own dental visits, they will eventually understand how important they are.
There’s an unofficial rule in dentistry that states: If a child can’t tie his shoes, he most probably cannot brush his own teeth. Young children often lack the manual skill to effectively brush their teeth. If a child finds difficulty with intricate hand skills (eg. tying their shoes), chances are they still need your help in getting rid of all their teeth germs. Supervising tooth-brushing this year will allow you to understand the areas where your child may need help; allowing you the opportunity to step in where needed.
Avoid the Internet Rabbit Hole
With information so readily available on the internet, it’s easy to get sucked into the rabbit hole of random information. When searching for health-related material online, it’s best to make a habit of seeking out reputable websites. Only when information is backed up by legitimate research will you be sure it can be helpful.
When making your grocery lists for the New Year, it’s best to decide on healthy purchases before getting to the store. Lessen the number of in-between meal snacks you buy. Trade sweet and sticky candies for low-sugar, non-sticky ones; or even better, buy fruits instead. Commit to these changes beforehand, and make sure to follow through once you get there.
Don’t buy into the façade that non-fluoride toothpaste is “natural” and better. Once there’s sugar in your kids’ diets, fluoride becomes a must. Buy toothpaste and mouthwashes with cavity-fighting fluoride.
Speak Positively About the Dentist
Make the decision to consciously paint a positive picture of your child’s dentist. Refrain from scaring them into taking care of their teeth because “The dentist is going to pull them out!” One of the hardest things for a dentist is trying to treat a child who has been told that he’s about to be stuck with a needle. Help your kids understand that dentists are doctors who are there to keep their teeth healthy and beautiful. Steer away from any complex details that may make them fearful, and remind them that we are there to do nothing but help.
Dr. Megan Phillip is a graduate of the University of the West Indies Dental School in St. Augustine. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree Dr. Phillip pursued 2 years of study with NYU Lutheran, receiving 2 certificates in Advanced Education in General Dentistry on completion. She has worked in both the public and private healthcare systems. She is currently a Paediatric Dentistry Resident at Howard University.