By Beth S. Pollak
Saturday is National Tooth Fairy Day, and it’s a great reminder to look out for your family’s dental health! Caribu is featuring some terrific tooth tales in the Summer Reading category this week. Pick your favorites to read in your next Caribu video-call, and connect with your loved ones about your Tooth Fairy memories.
Wiggle away with Enny Penny’s Loose Tooth or get some sleepy time from Slumberina, the Tooth Fairy’s friend. Try to solve the Mystery Of The Missing Tooth, and find out what happens when you try to trick the Tooth Fairy in The Tooth Fairy’s Tummy Ache. For your first dental visit, read the book Going To the Dentist to preview what to expect!
Reading books with kids about losing baby teeth and visiting the dentist can support them as they learn about their dental health.
“It’s tremendously important to have books on digital platforms now because children connect,” said Dr. Jessica Lee, the president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). “They read stories over and over. They watch shows over and over. It sets the stage for such a positive visit. It’s something they’re looking forward to. They can relate it to a character that’s on the app. They repeat that to me, saying ‘Oh, that’s the chair that was in the book I read!’ We can play that up a little bit. Even if it’s a short story or a short app, they remember the details.”
Dr. Lee is the Chair of the Division of Pediatric and Public Health at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and she practices at the UNC School of Dentistry and UNC Hospital. She says reading books can calm kids’ nerves on their dental visits.
“For a pediatric dentist, it really helps us. They know what the dentist is going to do, and they know what to look out for. They know that the chair will move up and down and that the dentist will count their teeth! We want kids not to be afraid of going to the dentist. We want children to have a fun visit when they see us.”
Welcoming The Tooth Fairy
When kids lose their baby teeth, it is an important milestone in their lives.
“Losing the tooth may on the surface not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge life event for a child of that age,” Dr. Lee said. “It’s a transition that shows that things are happening; that they’re in kindergarten and not in preschool, and that they can make some big kids’ decisions.”
She says families should take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate. “It’s a rite of passage. Especially in times like now, it’s amazing to celebrate when something ‘normal’ happens!”
Dr. Lee encourages families to read and share stories about the Tooth Fairy to mark the occasion.
“Kids have a great imagination. Their imaginative spirit, their joy, and the playtime that you share is really more important than ever. It’s a source of comfort to grow up with those stories.”
Dental Care During COVID-19
Although families might have concerns about dental visits and care during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Lee says it’s important to stick to regular dental check-ups and to contact your dentist with concerns.
“I tell parents—please communicate with me. 99 percent of the time I can answer questions over the phone. Contact your dentist if you have questions. We can answer them through a tele-dentistry visit or phone conversation as opposed to you having to worry about it!”
She also says that dental offices like hers have been careful to enforce safety measures and social distancing policies.
“I am dressed up from head to toe in PPE— gowns, gloves, face shield, hair covered. I have some stickers on my face shield to make it fun. We are very cautious in making sure our offices are clean and that everyone’s protected.”
Lee says that dental offices have adjusted appointment and cleaning procedures for everyone’s protection.
“You’ll find that dental offices have more spacing, we do symptom checks, and we are practicing social distancing. At the time of your appointment, we will have you wait in your car and send a text message when it’s your turn so you don’t have to sit in the waiting room. We do a double wipedown of each chair after each patient, and we don’t seat anyone else in it for at least another 30-35 minutes. So you’re not sitting back-to-back in dental chairs.”
Lee encourages everyone to maintain their regular dental check-up schedule. “You’d hate for a small cavity to turn into a big cavity, which would be an emergency situation,” she said.
Creating Routines For Good Dental Hygiene
Dr. Lee reminds parents that building good dental habits begins with creating daily rituals and routines around tooth brushing twice per day: once in the morning, and once before bed.
“The nighttime routine is the most important one,” she said. “We don’t want any of the plaque to sit overnight. Read a story, listen to music, integrate brushing your teeth into the nighttime routine, and it will become a habit for a lifetime.”
She says it’s important to keep kids involved in the cleaning process. “Little kids can’t always brush by themselves, but they should participate. Let them pick the brush or the toothpaste so they’re invested. They like to be involved in it.”
Lee also has advice for families whose routines might have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Because we all were sheltering at home for so many months, we were all snacking more because we had more access to snacks,” she said. “We need to make sure that if we snack more, we brush our teeth more. If we have more exposure to sugars and other carbohydrates, we need to keep our teeth clean.”
For more tips on supporting kids’ dental health, visit the AAPD website and explore the parents section. You will find articles, checklists, activities and even a Tooth Fairy Message!
To read all of Caribu’s books about teeth and dental health, along with 1000s of others, download the Caribu app! Connect with your friends and relatives in a video-call to share stories, games, and activities in a virtual playdate.
Beth S. Pollak is a writer and educator based in California. In addition to working with Caribu, she consults with educational organizations and EdTech companies. Beth has worked as a teacher and journalist in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco. She holds degrees in journalism, bilingual education, and educational leadership. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, biking, picnics, and dance.