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Tooth decay among school children is a major problem here in Oklahoma, but here’s the good news:

Almost all dental disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene.

Good habits just take a few minutes each day, which is not a lot in return for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

As kids head back to school, now is a great time to re-establish their daily dental care routines.

Here are some tips for elementary-aged children:

1.  Brush at least twice a day — after breakfast and before bedtime. If possible, brush after lunch or after sweet snacks.

2.  When you brush, you don’t need a lot of toothpaste: just squeeze out a bit the size of a pea.

3.  Brush all of your teeth, not just the front ones. Spend some time on the teeth along the sides and in the back.

4.  Move the brush back and forth gently in short strokes.  Brush the top, front and back sides of each tooth.

5.  Brush your tongue gently, too, it will help keep your breath fresh!

6.  Take your time while brushing; it’s not a race.  Spend at least 2 or 3 minutes each time you brush. If you have trouble keeping track of the time, use a timer or play one of your favorite songs to help pass the time.

Or check out these fun videos.

7.  When choosing a toothpaste, make sure it contains fluoride. Fluoride is a very important ingredient that makes your teeth strong and protects them from cavities.

8.  Don’t swallow the toothpaste.  Be sure to rinse your mouth well and spit after brushing.

9.  Make sure your toothbrush has soft bristles (the package will tell you if they’re soft).

10.  Ask your parent for a new toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if you have been sick.

11. Store your toothbrush in an upright position to allow water to drain and dry faster.

12.  Floss is the boss!  Cleaning between your teeth with floss is just as important as brushing. The floss gets rid of food that’s hidden where your toothbrush can’t get it, no matter how well you brush.

It feels weird the first few times you do it, but pretty soon you’ll be a pro. Slip the dental floss between each tooth and along the gum line gently once a day.

13.  Go see your dentist twice a year. Besides checking for cavities or gum disease, the dentist will help keep your teeth extra clean and can help you learn the best way to brush and floss.

14.  It’s not just brushing and flossing that keep your teeth healthy — you also need to be careful about what you eat and drink. Avoid sugary foods and drinks.  Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and drink water instead of soda.

Bacteria that live in our mouths love sugary foods and turn them into acids that cause cavities.

15.  Rinse your mouth with water or chew gum after meals. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating is OK because it produces more saliva in your mouth, which naturally washes bacteria away.

16.  If you play sports, make sure you wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth. Your dentist can make a custom-fitted mouth guard that’s easy to wear, comfortable and looks cool too!

17.  Don’t share cups, spoons or straws with other kids.  Just like the flu, you can “catch a cavity” from another kid who has poor oral habits.

Remember, your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Take care of them, and they will take care of you!

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