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At any age, it is crucial to your overall health to maintain good oral care and to visit the dentist regularly. Easier said than done, right? Especially if you have a toddler at home who acts like the toothbrush is a monster. There are many questions regarding oral health, especially for parents of young children, but fortunately, the Oklahoma Dental Association can simplify the process. The Oklahoma Dental Association is a statewide membership organization for dentists that offers programs and education to help advance the art and science of dentistry in Oklahoma.

Let’s start with finding a dental home. Dr. Dan Wilguess, secretary/treasurer for the Oklahoma Dental Association, points out that many families see their family dentist more often than their primary care physician. Children and adults should see their dentist every six months for good oral health. This is why it is so important you find the right dentist for your family. A great place to start is to visit the ODA website at www.okda.org and plug in your zip code to see all of the ODA members.  

If you have dental insurance, use it! Dr. Wilguess tells us a lot of people forget they have the insurance and get to the end of the year without taking advantage. If you have a good dental plan opting in for your child as soon as they begin getting their first tooth is recommended. 

“There are accidents that can happen or a child can traumatize a tooth unexpectedly,” Dr. Wilguess said. 

If you are not sure if your preferred dentist takes your insurance, Dr. Wilguess suggests calling their office directly and ask what plans they accept. You can also go through your dental insurance carrier to find network providers. 

Wondering when your child should see the dentist for the first time? Pediatric dentist Dr. Somer Heim suggests that you should follow the recommendations of the American Association of Pediatric Dentists and establish a dental home for children by 12 months of age. She said that this allows for appropriate timing of preventive education, assessment of dental development and detection of any early signs of dental disease or abnormalities. 

“Just like it’s important for children to see their pediatrician annually for a 'well child check,' parents should prioritize twice a year 'well dental checks' the same way,” said Dr. Heim. If your child is running from the toothbrush, don’t worry! Dr. Heim suggests these fun tricks to get your child to brush and floss:

  • Sing songs (i.e. the ABC’s, Wheels on the Bus, etc.) or count out loud while brushing.
  • Use imaginative play by “looking for (monsters, favorite character, etc.)” on the teeth to encourage better opening for brushing. 
  • All kids love rewards! Keeping a sticker chart, for example, after each brushing or flossing can be a good motivator.
  • Choose a toothbrush that appeals most to your child (characters, spinning, have timers, or play songs). Make sure it is size appropriate. 
  • Use an app. 
  • Check out 2min2x: Watch & Brush! You will find fun two-minute videos to keep your kids brushing for two minutes twice a day. The website also offers charts, to-dos, and a downloadable brush checklist. 

Dr. Heim shares these additional tips to keep your kids teeth healthy:

  • Brush and floss your child’s teeth daily.
  • Minimize sugary drinks such as sodas, sweet tea, chocolate milk and juice. 
  • Keep sweets for special occasions or treats. Snacks such as whole fruits, veggies, cheese and yogurt are better for the teeth.
  • Never put your child to bed with a sugar-containing drink (i.e. juice, milk, etc.) and always brush after any bedtime snacks or drinks.
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste and drink fluoridated water to help prevent decay.  

You know that your family needs to find a dental home and take care of your oral health. But what if you can’t afford it? The ODA is a caring community that promotes public health and health services. There are local, low cost dental options and church outreach programs that help. Dr. Wilguess makes time monthly to offer his services to those in need, through free events like Oklahoma Mission of Mercy and organizations such as Ministries of Jesus. Some of the programs available include: 

If you feel you or someone you know is in need, please visit the program websites listed above for more information. 

So now it is time to get started on your way to good oral health for your family! Take that first step by visiting the Oklahoma Dental Association at www.okda.org and find your dental home today. 

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