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Improving Kids’ Oral Health Habits During a Pandemic

As routines have been disrupted, maintaining healthy dental hygiene habits has been difficult over the past several months. Couple this with the fact parents and kids have been stuck at home with unfettered access to sugary snacks, and it’s easy to see how kids can develop cavities and other oral health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our routines kind of went out the door, and rightly so, because we’re dealing with a pandemic,” said Jessica Lee, who is the president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the university’s chair of the division of pediatric and public health. “With children no longer getting up at a certain time every day, their day may vary, and they may not be brushing their teeth at the same time they usually do, or with the same frequency.”

Reestablishing routines

While virtual classrooms have helped reduce COVID-19 exposure, quarantine has, at least in part, eliminated one of the most important health resources for children.

“We rely on schools to do so many things for our children, and they’re not only educating them about science, reading, and math, they’re teaching them about health and healthy habits,” Lee said. “Some schools would do things like fluoride rinses to promote healthy teeth. Some preschools even do tooth brushing. When kids aren’t able to develop those habits early on, it’s an issue.”

Because many kids are now receiving at least part of their education remotely, this puts an even bigger onus on parents to preach healthy habits and help children develop effective dental hygiene routines.

Building healthy habits

Making tooth brushing time fun is a great way to get kids invested, Lee said. She suggested searching YouTube for two-minute long videos featuring songs kids will love that will encourage them to brush for the right amount of time. It’s also important to celebrate important dental health milestones, like losing a first tooth.

Above all else, Lee said parents need to make repetition and routine key parts of their kids’ oral health, which will help create lifelong healthy habits.

“Same time, every day, let’s make brushing our teeth a habit,” Lee said. “And if you do that, you’ll soon find that your kids are reminding you that it’s time to brush.”

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