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Just recently, all four of us had our yearly check up at the dentist. Husband and I were given the thumbs up by our dentist, who said we’re obviously taking good care of our teeth and practising proper dental hygiene, but he had a few notes for the girls.

Sausage needed to include her gums when she’s brushing, because her gums bled slightly when the dentist prodded at them (something they don’t want to see) and BB was told she’s doing a good job but she needed to make sure she’s including her whole mouth when she brushes, not just at the front. He also said it would be a good idea to visit an orthodontic clinic in the net few months as Sausage is getting to the age where a decision about braces can be made.

A lot of people don’t realise, but poor dental hygiene can actually lead to a whole load of other health problems, not all of which will be in your mouth – it can even put you at risk of a heart attack. Here are some serious health problems, from the NHS website, which can start with poor dental hygiene:

  • Gum disease dangers

    Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It’s mainly caused by bacteria from plaque build-up. In some people who are susceptible to gum disease, the body over-reacts to the bacteria around the gums and causes too much inflammation. In others, the inflammation doesn’t clear up properly. The result of the intense gum inflammation is that it also affects the bloodstream, and is believed to slowly damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.

    What’s the damage?

    Gum disease has been linked to a variety of other health problems, including:

    • heart disease and heart attacks
    • diabetes and its control
    • stroke
    • rheumatoid arthritis

    Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, explains: “The link between oral health and overall body health is well documented and backed by robust scientific evidence. Despite this, only 1 in 6 people realises that people with gum disease may have an increased risk of stroke or diabetes. And only 1 in 3 is aware of the heart disease link.”

So how do we get kids to take their dental health seriously? Obviously we don’t want to scare them with tales of heart disease and diabetes, but impressing upon them how important it is to keep their mouths in good shape can be the difference between a life of good health and serious ongoing issues. 

Start As You Mean to Go On

Establishing a good routine from an early age is essential to getting kids to see tooth brushing as part of their daily activities. You can start brushing teeth as soon as they erupt, using a special baby toothbrush with no paste. Help them to make a game of brushing by doing it to music and letting baby have a go of doing it themselves. If they see tooth brushing as fun, they’re far more likely to want to do it.

Get An App

There are loads of apps out there which have built-in timers to ensure kids brush for the correct amount of time and also often have fun songs or animations which your kids can brush along with. Have a look in your device’s app store to find one suitable for you.

Offer a Reward

Giving your child a reward for brushing should be a regular item in a parent’s arsenal, but the reward that works best will depend on your child’s age and interests. Someone under the age of eight, for example, may be receptive to a funny bedtime story before lights out – but only after he brushes. For an older child, a good reward might be letting him watch an episode of a favourite TV show between brushing and bed.

Remember, good dental hygiene doesn’t just happen in the bathroom – what they eat and drink can also be a contributing factor. People are mostly aware that fizzy drinks and sugary sweets are an issue, but a lot of people fail to remember that fruit and milk also have high sugar and acid contents, which can also attack the enamel of teeth.

If your kids eat fruit or drink milk, make sure they clean their teeth afterwards and try to give only water before bed as the lack of saliva  in the mouth during sleep means that it’s even easier for the tooth decay to occur.