"By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge
the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches." ~Proverbs 24:3-4

Not Just For Kids

SMILE! It's Dental Health Month

February is National Children's Dental Health Month. Its purpose is to increase dental awareness and stress the importance of regular dental care. Good dental habits begun at an early age will ensure many years of bright smiles.

Maybe your parents or your teacher told you to brush and floss your teeth daily for good dental health. Soon you realized that having a clean mouth made you look and feel better. It meant having fresh breath and a more attractive smile. At the same time, proper brushing and flossing can also help prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

Most people tend to take their teeth for granted, except for immediately following an annual cleaning. But almost all dental problems are preventable, and the main factor in dental health is the meticulous practice of proper oral care techniques at home. In addition, by having regular dental examinations, your dentist can diagnose and treat any problems early.

10 Tips for Taking Care of Teeth

1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, in the morning and at night. (And preferably after meals, too.)

2. Limit sugary foods and drinks-including chocolate, hard candies, cookies, sweetened cereals, cake, and soda pop. (These cause dental caries, commonly known as cavities.)

3. Eat more crunchy foods like raw carrots, apples, and celery. (These help scrape away tartar and plaque from teeth.)

4. Limit sticky foods like caramel, toffee, raisins, molasses and honey. (Any foods that stay in contact with teeth longer are more likely to cause cavities.)

5. Eat more calcium-rich foods such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. (Calcium builds strong bones and teeth.)

6. Limit between-meal snacking. (Studies show that how often you eat sugary foods affects the development of cavities more than the total amount of sugar you consume.)

7. Be cautious about eating too many acidic foods, such as fresh citrus and carbonated drinks. (Their acids can erode tooth enamel.)

8. Drink plenty of water. (This rinses out your mouth; plus fluoride, a mineral that helps prevent tooth decay, may be found naturally in-or added to-drinking water.)

9. Floss your teeth daily. (This removes food particles from between teeth and gums, where a toothbrush can't reach.)

10. Don't forget to brush your tongue! (Lots of odor-causing bacteria hide on your tongue.)

Did You Know…?

  • The first permanent molars erupt at the back of the mouth around the age of 6 or 7, behind the existing baby teeth rather than replacing any of them. Children and parents are often unaware that these are permanent teeth.

  • Plaque is a soft, sticky coating on the teeth, consisting of bacteria and food debris. Tartar (dental calculus) is a hard, porous calcium deposit formed by the mineral salts in saliva.

  • Chewing sugarless gum can help eliminate food particles stuck in teeth after a meal, and it also helps prevent plaque build-up by stimulating saliva production.

  • Research suggests that several varieties of cheese (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Swiss, and American) contain substances that neutralize the destructive acids produced by oral bacteria-a good reason to end your meal with a piece of cheese!
  • Toothsome Trivia

  • When cooking pasta, "al dente" literally means "to the tooth", an Italian phrase used to describe pasta that is cooked only until it offers a slight resistance when bitten into, but which is not soft or overdone.

  • Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, noted that sticky figs could damage teeth.

  • George Washington wore a set of false teeth made of ivory, metal, a cow's tooth, and one of his own teeth!

    1. At what age should a child first see a dentist? (a) 5 (b) by age 2 (c) when a problem occurs

    2. True or false? All children will get at least one cavity.

    3. At what age are people most likely to get cavities? (a) 12 and under (b) 17 and under (c) 50 years and older

    4. True or false? Every time you eat a sugary substance, enamel-eating acids attack your teeth for 20 minutes or more.

    5. What is the upper age limit for having teeth straightened with braces? (a) 21 (b) 50 (c) no limit

    6. True or false? Small children should use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

    7. How long should it take to brush your teeth? (a) less than one minute (b) about two minutes (c) more than five minutes

    8. True or false? Toothbrushes with soft bristles are better than those with hard bristles.

    9. What is the major cause of tooth loss in adults? (a) gum disease (b) tooth decay (c) accidents (d) old age

    10. True or false? Like gray hair, permanent tooth loss is an inevitable part of the aging process.

    Answers: 1=b, 2=False, 3=b, 4=True, 5=c, 6=True, 7=b, 8=True, 9=a, 10=False


    Count Your Teeth

    Young children normally have 20 teeth. They usually begin to appear at about 6 months of age. These are known as baby teeth, primary teeth, deciduous teeth, or milk teeth. The permanent teeth begin erupting between the ages of 6 and 8. This process continues up until age 11-13, or even as late as 15 years of age. Wisdom teeth (the third and last molar teeth) generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21, although in some people they never appear. A full set of 32 permanent teeth consists of 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, and 12 molars. How many teeth do you have now?

    Brush an Egg

    Make some white hard-boiled eggs and pretend they are teeth. The outer shell surface is similar to your tooth enamel. Consider how certain foods and drinks can stain teeth. Soak each egg overnight in a beverage such as red fruit punch, grape juice, orange soda, cola, and tea. The next day, remove the eggs and examine any staining. Try gently brushing the eggs with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Can you remove the stains?

    Create a Cavity

    Take an apple and make a hole one-inch deep in it. Put it in a paper bag and set aside for a few days. Cut through the place where the hole was made and look at the effect of decay. This shows how decay spreads through a tooth.



    Arthur's Tooth, by Marc Brown.

    The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist, by Stan & Jan Berenstain.

    Going to the Dentist (Usborne First Experiences), by Anne Civardi.

    Going to the Dentist, by Fred Rogers.

    Just Going to the Dentist, by Mercer Mayer.

    Make Way For Tooth Decay, by Bobbi Katz.

    My Dentist, My Friend, by P.K. Hallinan.

    My Tooth is About to Fall Out, by Grace MacCarone.

    Open Wide: Tooth School Inside, by Laurie Keller.

    Healthy Teeth for Kids: A Preventive Program: Prebirth Through the Teens, by Jerome S. Mittelman.


    The Adventures of Timmy the Tooth (Entertaining video series for preschoolers-watch out for the villainous "Cavity Goon!")


    (Tips for parents and teachers; resources for students; classroom ideas; activity sheets and interactive games for kids; view several public service announcements from the American Dental Association.)

    (Tooth facts, common questions, and interactive games for kids, from the American Dental Hygienist's Association.)

    (Tom's of Maine virtual factory tour shows how toothpaste is made.)

    (Colgate Kids' World with interactive activities.)

    (A fun Crest Experiment.)

    (Collection of oral hygiene hints for children, and dental hygiene resources.)


    These pages are a continuous work in progress.
    Copyright © 2000- by Teri Ann Berg Olsen
    All rights reserved.

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