This past week while I was driving to Los Angeles for a meeting, I heard on National Public Radio that last year, it was reported children in California missed approximately 874,000 days of school because of dental problems.
That translates to approximately 7% of the student population missing one day of school. For those children who need dental care - but the families cannot afford it - the percentage of days missed from school due to dental problems are even higher. While that was surprising (and saddening) for me to hear, it stunned me that almost two-thirds of children in California have some form of dental disease.
I forget where exactly I saw - or heard it - but somewhere along the way, I learned that it is important to take a child once they turn one, for their first visit to a dentist. This seemed awfully young to me but the reasoning is that you want to insure your children's teeth are growing in correctly, and also, you want to get your child accustomed to having someone inspect and/or clean their teeth with routine frequency.
We didn't take our triplets for their first dental visit until they were 18-months old and it was rather traumatizing for them. But since then, our family goes to the dentist once every four months for a thorough cleaning and checkup and everyone - except Henry who screams when the dentist so much as walks in the room - is a pro in the chair.
(If you take one more step, so help me I will throw this "Find It" game at you and scream so loudly your ear drums will rupture and bleed. Do. NOT. Test. Me. I mean every word which I do not say, but you should be able to tell just by looking at me.)
Knock on wood, our children have not had any significant dental problems thus far and I credit their strong teeth to genetics, a healthy diet that is low in sweets (theirs, not mine - silly), but perhaps most importantly, a good dental hygiene program.
In addition to brushing twice a day - preferably after meals - our dentist has stressed that it is extremely important we carefully floss our children's pearly whites, before brushing. I'm pretty sure everyone knows flossing is critical for good dental health, because flossing removes plaque which can turn to tartar which leads to gum disease which is no good at all.
But how does one successfully floss the little bitty baby teeth on a child?
We were recently introduced to "Oral-B flossers" and we love them.
While the box says not intended for children under the age of four, once the dentist told us that we had 'significant plaque buildup' on William's teeth, we've been using them everyday for the past few years - and have been using them daily on Henry since he had more that one tooth.
Not only are the flossers easy to use - they are fun for the kids to look at and they have made a HUGE difference in their overall dental health. And since the initiation of mandatory flossing, the report card that we receive from the dentist has definitely improved. That's good news because it assures Charlie and I that we are doing a swell job of taking care of our children's teeth. But it also means there is a better chance that they will keep their baby teeth a bit longer.
Which is good news for me, because the thought of our babies losing their baby teeth makes me want to sob. I mean, weren't they just embryos ... a few months ago?
Good heavens. What's next?