September is Colgate Oral Health Month, an annual initiative aimed at engaging the nation with its oral health, and a few weeks back I was invited along to attend a blogger roundtable discussion to find out more about how to keep mine and my kiddiwinks pearly whites just that, most interesting I can tell you! I learnt a lot.
Personally, I have a bit of a dentist phobia. That’s not to say that I don’t look after my teeth and go to the dentist, it’s just that I pretty much fear anything dental related ever since I fell over in Rome airport as a young teenager, knocked one of my front teeth out and had to embark on very painful restorative dentistry and then years later a cap to ensure I could continue to give cheesy grins without looking like something out of Dickens. Traumatic. Painful. Not fun.
As a result, I’ve always got the nerves in my stomach and sweaty palms feeling when I walk into my dentist’s surgery and I usually look for an excuse to have to reschedule appointments! But now having kids, I’m acutely aware of the need to instil good oral hygiene habits in them and to set them on the right track to having healthy teeth as well as trying hard not to pass on my own dentist phobia fears.
To date, I have battled on a daily basis with Allegra over teeth brushing. Usually, I’m ashamed to say, I would consider it a success if I managed to get her to brush them once a day and sometimes when I was feeling particularly stubborn, I have been known to physically pin her down and attack her with a toothbrush… I know, possibly not instilling a positive association with oral hygiene, ahem, but hey what’s a mum to do?!
So I was really interested to go along to the Colgate event to get some good advice and top tips from their panel of experts on how to help my kids keep teeth and gums strong and healthy, without the need for pining down and hysterics. Here are the seven steps they suggest for a bright smile:
- Brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, before bed and on one other occasion: this has been an interesting one to find out, so now if it’s too much of a battle in the morning, I postpone until another time in the day, usually mid morning to avoid over stressing the point and keeping things a bit more relaxed and it seems to work better – hooray! Oh and by the way, you should also be brushing for 2 minutes each time.
- Supervise your child during toothbrushing until they are at least 7 years old: yep, makes sense, if left to her own devices Allegra would either just not do it or would suck all the toothpaste off and wander out of the bathroom humming a merry tune – not the best practice for sparkling toothy-pegs
- Just spit after toothbrushing, rinsing washes the fluoride protection away: I was totally guilty of a quick rinse with water post brush, I have amended my ways after finding out that clearly I’ve been doing it wrong all these years!
- Reduce the amount and frequency of sugary food and drinks: noted, and of course I try not to pump her full of sugar anyway not just because of the fear of what it could do to her teeth, but I was shocked to find out at the discussion that we should beware the humble raisin for its propensity to coat teeth in sugar (bad raisins!) and actually dried fruit in general should be avoided as a snack *goes to cupboards and has a clear-out* – although giving them alongside a piece of cheese helps to reduce just how not good they are for our teeth. Good to know.
- Wear a mouthguard when playing sports (or travelling through airports with marble floors…)
- If your dentist recommends a fluoride mouthwash, use this at a different time from toothbrushing to increase protection throughout the day (feels a bit like more frequent trips to the bathroom than the life of a busy mum of two can afford but okay, I’ll go with it…)
- Ask your dental professional for further advice: mine would always say “floss, floss, floss” – not that I do, but I will, I will, I’ll start this month… honest guv!
Colgate very kindly gifted me a little goody bag for coming along to the event and inside there was a cute little pink toothbrush for Allegra, some kids’ toothpaste, and a tick chart for your little one to tick off each time they brush their teeth for a period of a week. Filled with renewed resolve to crack teeth-brushing with Allegra, I introduced her to her exciting new presents and over the past few weeks we’ve been all about the oral health routine!
… and it has worked a treat!! Mainly, she became totally obsessed with the tick chart, which really encouraged her then to brush her teeth twice a day, just so she could tick her chart. Previously, willingness to brush her teeth at all was non-existent, so now she’s actively doing it twice a day without major hassle is nothing short of a miracle! There have even been times where I’ve been putting her to bed and forgotten about teeth and she’s said “ah! mummy!! I haven’t brushed my teeth!” – I fear mainly this is a delay tactic to add another 5 minutes onto staying up, but whatever, it means she’s thinking about and wanting to brush her teeth, so it can only be a good thing.
After the first week of course our chart was all ticked off (amazing!!) and since then she has been badgering me about wanting to tick on a new chart so I have said that I will make her a new one for her to tick daily. I haven’t had a chance to do it yet, but woe-betide me if I don’t while she’s out for the day at pre-school today because her patience for the new chart is wearing thin (and she’s quite a task-master, so I dare not deliver the goods!).
Finally, the thing I had yet to address… a visit to the dentist. Allegra has seen the episode where Peppa and George visit the dentist for a check-up and she has a book all about their visit to the dentist and she’s actually been asking “mummy, can I go to the dentist and drink the pink drink and spit it out?” and I’ve been saying, yes, sure, we can go to the dentist and then putting it off and putting it off.
But, now taking the bull by the horns, after going to the Colgate event and reflecting on the fact that I really mustn’t pass my dentist phobias on to her, the very day after the event I called my dentist and booked myself a check-up and asked that we build in some time to let Allegra “sit in the chair and have her smile checked and her teeth counted” (which is the rather clever way the Colgate Oral Health panel suggested positioning it to your little one). So we’re all booked in for next Monday and Allegra is really looking forward to it and I feel really delighted that this month we’ve properly cracked looking after her teeth and getting her actively engaged in taking care of her smile.
So there you have it and you can find out more about looking after yours and your child’s teeth at: www.colgate.co.uk/OralHealthMonth