We’re firm believers in the power of a smile! How comforting it is to be greeted with a smile at an interview, on your first day of a job, or even in line to get groceries. It can help us to shed all our nerves and anxiety and instead feel welcomed and supported. It’s the perfect accessory to any outfit, a universal sign of trust and kindness, and it’s free therapy to you and me! February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and we’re supporting and spreading awareness for the Give Kids A Smile campaign throughout the entire month!
What is Give Kids A Smile?
Give Kids A Smile is a national movement designed to provide underserved children with free oral health care. Each year approximately 6,500 dentists and 30,000 dental team members volunteer at local GKAS events to provide free oral health education, screenings, and preventive and restorative treatment to over 300,000 children. To-date, over 6 million underserved children have received free oral health services through the GKAS program.
Though sometimes viewed as accessory, oral care is actually a window into your overall health, beginning in childhood. Poor oral health may be linked to pneumonia, cardiovascular disease, endocarditis, diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not a secret that once our “adult” teeth are in, we’re stuck with them for life! That’s why we need to take care of them starting at a young age.
The Power of a Smile
Smiles can help the recipient to have a better day and can serve as a catalyst for even more smiles! But did you know that even the owner of those pearly whites can benefit from the power of a smile? That’s right, smiling benefits us as well and it can be an important precursor for our happiness and success in the long run.
Shockingly, one 30 year study found that the length of one’s smile (based on yearbook photos) correlated with how long (and fulfilling) the individual’s marriage was. In 1872, Charles Darwin accurately found that the act of smiling makes us feel better, as proven by fMRI imaging of the brain. Research also shows that when someone smiles at us, we have a universal evolutionary trait that makes us want to smile right back!
The power of a smile is as effective at attracting good feelings as it is at warding away bad ones. When we smile, our levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine (AKA stress hormones) decrease as endorphins rush in to take their place.
Giving a child a chance at a happy, healthy smile is more than just appearances or even just physical health, it is giving them a better shot at connecting with the world around them. It’s a tool to manage their emotions and live happy and fulfilling lives.
How to Help Kids Maintain Healthy Smiles
Oral health is crucial even before their teeth start coming in! That’s right, your kids’ gums and those little baby teeth destined for plastic treasure chests need to be cleaned and protected. Thanks to KidsHealth.org, here are some things you can do to help your child maintain a happy healthy smile:
- Even before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
- When your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. (Even if the toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride, use a small amount to minimize what your child swallows.)
- When two of your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.
- Around age 2, your child should learn to spit while brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this can make swallowing toothpaste more likely.
- Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise kids younger than 8 while brushing, as they’re likely to swallow toothpaste.
- Limit or avoid some foods. Sugary foods, juices, and candy (especially sticky gummy candy, gummy vitamins, or fruit leather or “roll-ups”) can erode enamel and cause cavities.
One of HAPPE’s Mission I’m Possible challenges explores the power of the smile. It encourages children to make it their mission to spread kindness and positivity by smiling at a someone who needs it. It teaches children that they have the power to make a positive difference in the lives of others, just by sharing their light with the world. Every Mission I’m Possible challenge is designed to empower children in this way and encourage them to use their innate curiosity and knack for smiling and kindness to shape their own lives and the lives of others.
If you want to find a Give A Kid A Smile event in your community and share the gift of happy, healthy smiles, check out their website! If you want to support their mission and help to spread kindness via smiles, you can share this blog post with others, and share some smiles along the way!