April 29, 2013 03:00 PM

As a busy mom-of-two, Laila Ali knows all too well how important it is to set aside time to make sure your children are taking care of their teeth — which makes her the perfect spokesperson for the Ad Council’s new children’s oral health campaign.

Currently hosting Everyday Healthairing nationwide on ABC, Ali is also a world-class athlete, fitness & wellness expert, cooking enthusiast and founder of the Laila Ali Lifestyle Brand.

As a champion boxer, I’ve faced some tough opponents: Christy Martin, Mónica Núñez, Jackie Frazier-Lyde. But even I didn’t realize that one of the toughest jobs in my life would also be one of the most rewarding — being a mother to my two children, C.J., 4½, and Sydney, 2.

But one of my biggest parenting challenges is getting my kids to brush their teeth. They squirm. They lose focus. Once, the little one swallowed her toothpaste! It’s no wonder that fewer than half of American parents currently report that their kids brush their teeth twice a day.[cmtest width=”600″ height=”30″]

Courtesy Laila Ali

The tooth truth is: brushing is more important than you may think. Right now, dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in America. And for more than 16 million kids, the disease goes untreated. Minorities and children from low-income families are disproportionately affected, with double the number of reported cases.

Good health has always been a priority in my life and I want it to be a priority for my kids, too. That’s why I developed this list of quick “Tooth To-Dos” to help busy parents (and their little ones!) maintain good brushing habits:

1. Make sure your kids brush with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, twice a day. Note: Use a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste for kids ages 2 to 6, and use slightly more when they’re older. Teach them to spit out the toothpaste when they’re done so they don’t swallow it. For kids younger than age 2, use a soft toothbrush and a little water; no toothpaste is necessary.

2. Teach your kids to floss between their teeth once a day to remove plaque and food where a brush can’t reach. Note: Kids’ teeth can be flossed as soon as two of their teeth touch each other.

3. Start taking your child to the dentist regularly no later than age 1.

Of course, I’m not the only one working to help kids start good brushing practices early.

Last year, a group of more than 35 leading oral health organizations called The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives came together with the Ad Council to launch a national public service advertising campaign along with a fun, engaging website, 2min2x.org, which features free 2 minute video clips of characters including Elmo, Bugs Bunny and more that kids can watch while brushing.

I know that in today’s supercharged world, it may seem difficult to find two minutes to do anything. But believe me when I say that the smiles on your kids’ faces will be worth it.

— Laila Ali

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