When it comes to teaching your children how to care for their teeth, you need as many tools in your tool belt as you can get. One great way to emphasize the importance of good oral care habits is through incentives. This could take the form of a chore chart and stickers or using a well-loved childhood tradition to your advantage.
The tradition has very early origins in Northern Europe. Writings in Icelandic dated in the 13th century mention the tooth fee, an amount of money paid to a small child upon losing his first tooth, so we know the tradition was already popular by that time. The Vikings had a tradition of paying children for their baby teeth. Today, we play “tooth fairy” by taking a child’s baby tooth, left under a pillow or on the nightstand, and leaving some money in exchange.
A recent survey found that the average amount children in the United States receive from the tooth fairy is $3.70 per tooth.
When introducing your child to the tooth fairy tradition, it is important to remember that your child will lose TWENTY baby teeth. Consider that number as you set your “tooth fee”. You should also consider that your children will begin losing their baby teeth around six years of age and continue until they are about twelve years old. If your child understands inflation, he may expect the fee to increase as he gets older.
Another good thing to remember is that it is very common for teeth to fall out in phases. A child will lose the front eight teeth (four on top and four on bottom) within a few months between ages six to seven years. Then there will be a lull, during which they lose no teeth. Then they will hit another tooth-losing phrase around age ten to twelve years.
So how can you use the tooth fairy to help you encourage your kids to practice good oral hygiene? Giving the tooth fairy some Santa Claus-like abilities is always a great idea. “She sees you when you’re brushing. She knows when you use floss.”
Maybe your tooth fairy pays a little more for really clean, healthy teeth. She could even leave little bonuses when she sees a child’s perfect oral hygiene chart.
Because the tooth fairy wants only cavity-free teeth, it is important to help your kids understand that they have some control over preventing or getting cavities. While you want to add motivation for your children to take great care of their teeth, you must remember that they should not take full responsibility for oral hygiene until they can tie their own shoes and write their names in cursive. Up until that time, you need to monitor and oversee any oral hygiene methods.
When your children are toddlers, you can impart this important message to them as you are cleaning their teeth. Tell them that mommy or daddy are working so hard to brush and floss their teeth because the tooth fairy wants only pretty, healthy teeth. You have ample opportunities to impress this on their little minds as you brush and floss each night before bed. You will prepare them for both the time when they will begin performing their oral hygiene tasks for themselves and when they will begin losing their baby teeth.
You may have caught onto a phrase we repeated in that former paragraph: “brush and floss”. Yes, you DO need to floss your children’s teeth. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque and bacteria from between the teeth. Cavities between the teeth are very common on baby teeth, leading to the risk of painful dental infections and the need for expensive dental work.
You can also set a good example by letting your children see you brush and floss your own teeth every night. Make it a family affair, and you can keep everyone in great health!
There are two important steps in preventing cavities in children. Practicing great oral hygiene every night is the first one. The second is making good choices in what you eat and drink. In most cases, little ones do not make their own decisions about foods and drinks until they are much older. That means the responsibility for helping them understand these “good choices” lies with you, Mom or Dad.
Limiting your children’s exposure to sugary drinks, like sodas and sports drinks, is an essential part of preventing cavities. Even fruit juices, when sipped throughout the day, can lead to a serious problem with tooth decay. Help your child start the habit of drinking only water between meals as early as possible. We have found that sugary drinks are the biggest culprit in causing cavities on baby teeth.
When it comes to food choices, try to stay away from candy, especially that with a sticky consistency like caramels and taffy. Sugary treats like cookies and cake can be enjoyed with a meal on an infrequent basis. Just don’t eat them every day, and try to keep them with meals rather than as a snack. The best between-meal snacks are those with complex carbohydrates (think raw veggies) and fats, like cheese and nuts.
By helping your child make a good impression on the tooth fairy, you are also helping him or her form good habits that will last for a lifetime!
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our wonderful dentists. We love children and want to help them all take great care of their teeth!