Did You Know?
- Children who are put to sleep with a bottle or sippy cup with drinks containing sugar are at risk for developing tooth decay.
- Many drinks contain natural or added sugar, including infant formula, milk, fruit juices, and fruit drinks.
Having a regular bedtime routine helps children know what to expect at the end of the day. Brushing children's teeth is an important part of the routine.
This issue of Brush Up on Oral Health describes the Brush, Book, Bed program, also available in Spanish (español), developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The purpose of the program is to structure children's bedtime routines. The issue includes recommendations that Head Start staff can share with parents for choosing children's books on oral health. It also offers a recipe for a healthy snack that can be made in the Head Start classroom or at home.
Helping Parents Set a Bedtime Routine
Some parents share with Head Start staff that getting their child to bed is stressful. They say their child makes excuses to delay going to bed. Some children throw tantrums, ask for a snack, or leave the bedroom.
To help parents set a bedtime routine that takes the battle out of getting children to bed, use the Brush, Book, Bed program. It promotes three simple and clear messages that Head Start staff can share with parents.
- Brush. Brush the child's teeth or supervise the child's brushing. For children under age 3, use a smear of fluoride toothpaste to brush teeth. For children ages 3 to 6, use a pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste. For more information about fluoride toothpaste amounts, see the Healthy Habits for Happy Smiles handout, Brushing Your Child's Teeth, also available in Spanish (español). After brushing, do not give the child anything to eat or drink before bed.
- Book. After brushing, let the child pick one or two books. Read the books aloud to the child in a comfortable spot.
- Bed. After reading, put the child to sleep in his or her bed. Sleep is important for children's health and well-being.
It is important to stress to parents that consistency is the key to this approach. It may take some time to establish the routine. Once the routine is set, bedtime will become more pleasant for the parents and the child.
Helping Parents Choose Books
Head Start staff can help parents understand that spending 15 minutes reading aloud every day can improve a child's language development. It also promotes positive social and emotional development by creating a strong parent-child bond. Reading books about oral health is a good way to do both of these things and teach children about oral health at the same time.
A wide variety of children's books about oral health can be found in public libraries, bookstores, and discount stores. Books can be used to teach children about teeth and what they do, healthy foods and drinks, brushing teeth, visiting a dental office, and dentists' and dental hygienists' jobs.
Head Start staff can help parents choose books about oral health for their child by suggesting titles or encouraging parents to read books that meet the following recommendations:
- Information in the book is correct. If you are not sure the oral health information in the book is accurate, check Head Start's oral health webpage, also available in Spanish (español). You can also ask your state dental hygienist liaison (DHL). For information about state DHLs, see the September 2018 issue of Brush Up on Oral Health, also available in Spanish (español).
- The book says positive things about oral health. Find a book that is positive. For example, a book about a dentist, dental hygienist, or dental office receptionist who is friendly can help a child feel good about dental visits. A book about a dentist or dental hygienist that praises a child for not having tooth decay is better than one about having a cavity filled.
- The book does not use words that might make a child afraid of dental visits. Look for words like shot, hurt, needle, pain, and other words that might scare a child. Do not read books with these words to a child because it might make the child afraid of dental visits.
- The book uses words that a child can understand. Make sure the book has short sentences and simple words. Check that the meanings of oral health terms are explained so a child can understand them.
Head Start programs can also keep books on oral health in the classroom. Parents can read the books to their child on site. If the Head Start program has a lending library, parents can check the books out.
Cook's Corner: Veggie, Egg, and Cheese Faces
Here is a delicious and healthy snack that children can make in a Head Start classroom or at home with their families.
- 4 pieces small whole wheat tortillas, pitas, or round flatbreads
- Fresh vegetables, such as sliced green and red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers and alfalfa sprouts
- 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
- 1 cup shredded low-fat cheese, such as cheddar, mozzarella, Colby, or Colby-Jack
- Place bread on plate or paper towel.
- Add vegetables, egg, and cheese to create a face on the bread.
Makes 4 servings
Safety tip: An adult should slice the ingredients.
The National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness welcomes your feedback on this issue, as well as your suggestions for topics for future issues. Please forward your comments to health at ecetta dot info or call 866-763-6481.
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Topic: Oral Health
National Centers:Early Childhood Health and Wellness
Last Updated: September 23, 2020