Child looking at teeth in mirror with dentist (photo by iStock)
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: Jan./Feb. 2023

Follow these pointers for giving your kids a good start at dental health. Plus, learn strategies that will help you stick with your New Year resolution this time around. 

Brushing Up 
Follow these pointers for ensuring good dental health in children. 

You hear the sink running and get the thumbs-up from your child that, yes, his teeth are brushed. We all know that trick. Let’s face it, dental hygiene isn’t the most popular activity in most households, but by brushing three times a day for two minutes with parental supervision, kids will set a solid foundation for good dental health, according to Dr. Kevan O’Neill, a board-certified orthodontist at Dayton Children’s Hospital. But there is more to dental health than brushing and flossing. February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, which provides an opportunity to take a closer look at how to help your little ones. 

No bottles in bed. When a child falls asleep with a bottle in his mouth, it creates an environment for bacteria that can lead to baby-bottle tooth decay. “There are 20 baby teeth, and you get them all  by about 2 1/2 years old,” O’Neill says. “They are important not only for chewing but to hold space for the big teeth.” Kids with baby-teeth issues often need fillings to preserve them and face orthodontic work down the road. 

Thumbs down. Thumb and finger sucking is common, but over time, the behavior puts pressure on the palate. “The jaws are growing, and it can narrow that upper jaw, and if that happens, you may have to seek early orthodontic treatment to widen the palate with an expander,” O’Neill says. You might notice speech issues as a result. Don’t wait to seek a consultation. “Getting the teeth in the right spot helps with enunciation,” O’Neill explains. 

Watch for jaw shift. When your child chews food, do you notice the jaw sliding from one side to the other? If you spot a right-left movement, talk to your dentist, O’Neill says. “When children are growing, they are moldable — and if you think about a sapling tree, if you hold it to one side, it will grow that way,” he explains. “You don’t want the jaw to posture one way or the other over time, because you can get asymmetric growth.” 


Apartment complex residents reading, painting, texting, dancing and working out (illustration by iStock)
Sticking with It
If your New Year resolutions are often long gone by Feb. 1, it’s time for a fresh approach. Here are four strategies to help start you on a successful journey. 

Are New Year resolutions made to be broken? It can feel that way, especially come mid-January when the wind chill kicks in and the alarm blares out its 5 a.m. gym call. If you repeatedly make resolutions that fall flat, now is the time to set yourself up for real success. Adopt a different attitude toward the annual goal-setting tradition. In short, treat those resolutions as milestones with defined steps along the way.

“If your goal is to ‘lose weight’ or ‘exercise more,’ be more specific,” says Alexis Supan, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine. “Instead, say I want to lose 20 pounds by June 1, or I want to exercise before work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

With focus and clearly measurable goals, you can more easily stick with lifestyle changes. Supan shares her advice for turning resolutions into new habits. 

Start with a plan. “We have step-by-step plans for so many other aspects of our lives, but for whatever reason, we don’t give ourselves that benefit with weight loss or eating healthier,” Supan says. Rather than stating that you’ll “work out this week” (too vague) or “work out every day” (too unrealistic), set an achievable goal. If you want to lose weight, create a plan based on blood work and a conversation with your doctor. No matter the change you want to make, be sure your plan has measurable milestones. “If you eat fast food twice a week for lunch, and your goal is to eat healthier, maybe you decide to get to a point by midsummer where you do not buy fast food at all,” Supan suggests. 

Remove barriers. How are you going to make time to implement these changes, be it starting a new workout regimen or making healthier meals at home? What is your exercise plan once winter weather takes hold? Anticipate and address any potential barriers that could keep you from reaching your goal. When it comes to finding more time, taking a hard look at how you spend your free hours is essential. “Maybe you monitor your screen time and get off social media or stop watching TV, so you have more time to sleep or exercise,” Supan suggests. When it comes to better eating, anticipate where you tend to go off track. “If the break room at work is full of pastries, avoid it,” Supan says.   

Rewrite your story. How people view themselves has a profound effect on whether they are successful in creating change in their life. Be aware of the story you tell yourself and whether it is providing you an excuse to continue bad habits. “A lot of people don’t realize it, but they describe themselves as someone with a sweet tooth or say they are not a good cook,” Supan says. “When we accept these labels, they become true.” Free yourself from negative labels and adopt a new, positive outlook about who you are. “Start to say, ‘I’m a good cook,’ or ‘I’m a runner,’ and work toward those goals. Then you are redefining yourself as a healthier person and it’s easier to live out that path.” 

Make change a way of life. Every morning, take a moment to affirm your long-term goal or motivation. “Say it out loud or write it down,” Supan says. “It’s easy to lose focus ... so it’s great to remind yourself and know you are going into the day with that intent.” Making time to learn is another way to keep moving toward your goal. If you want to eat healthier, sign up for a cooking class or invest time in watching instructional videos. “It’s really necessary to make that long-term change,” Supan says. “And if you learn, it will be easy and fun.”