Sometimes getting your children to practice good oral hygiene is like... well... pulling teeth. But it certainly isn’t impossible.
There are ways you can encourage them to be consistent with brushing and flossing their teeth and to be aware of the foods and drinks they consume.
It’s very important that your children learn how to take care of their teeth early on to save them from having issues later.
Good oral hygiene is very important in your adult life too, so start them young and the good habits will follow through to adulthood.
Teaching your child good oral hygiene starts at home:
Set an example
Nearly any expert will tell you that leading the way to good behavior starts with the parents setting an example.
Kids are somewhat “monkey see, monkey do” and they’ll mimic your actions and behaviors.
When you start teaching your children to brush their teeth on their own, brush with them. Show them that mom and dad brush and floss morning and night.
Answer their questions but don’t just tell them to do it, lead by example and show them.
Take them to your dental appointments
You can take leading by example even further by including your children in your own dental care. Bring them with you to your dental appointments and encourage them to engage and ask questions.
This can also help them be less afraid of the dentist, if they’ve struggled with this in the past. This is also all a part of normalizing oral hygiene and getting them used to the idea that visits to the dentist are a regular occurrence.In the long run your children might come to understand the importance of going to the dentist. Then, when they’re old enough you can take them to a pediatric dentist.
Most parents know this trick. Kids are generally way more interested in anything that seems fun and entertaining.
You can find children’s toothbrushes that are colorful and have characters on them, and toothpaste that tastes like bubble-gum, and has sparkles in it.
As with getting your kids to eat foods they don’t want to eat or do things they don’t want to do, distraction or misdirection works wonders.
This way they might brush regularly and get a kick out of it too.
Take them for regular checkups
You should take your child to the dentist either once a year or once every six months. The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends taking your child for their first checkup when their first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. (1)
About 20% of children aged five to 11 years in the U.S. have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
Taking your kids to get their teeth checked is crucial to catch these things before they get worse and to get tips on how best to avoid decay.
If you start early enough, this can help them develop a positive connection with the dentist and prevent them from developing any fearful associations. (2)Remember to be enthusiastic about their visits and be consistent with the dentist’s recommended visit schedule. Maybe you can find a family dentist and book back-to-back appointments so that you and your children can all go together.
Teach them/tell stories
Quite often when children start school they get used to learning in that sort of forum, so a great way to get them to understand what you would like them to do, is to teach them.
Create a lesson for them through storytelling or fun games.
There are even videos and games online that teach children good oral hygiene. You can watch the videos together and explain to them why it’s so important to take care of your teeth and gums.
Nearly all oral health conditions in children are somewhat preventable and can be treated in early stages. This starts with teaching your children how to take care of their teeth. (3)
Not only can you get colorful character tooth brushes, but there are chargeable or battery powered electric ones. This provides a deeper clean for your children's teeth and can be fun for them too.
Your child’s dentist might recommend an electric brush if they have any signs of cavities or decay.
Manuel brushing can also be tiring for children’s little arms, so an electric toothbrush could be much easier for them to use.
Electric brushes also might be more appealing to kids. Some play music and tell them when to stop brushing, which can help to teach them how long to brush for.
Two minutes is the usual recommendation.
Promote healthy eating
The New York State Department of Health reported that an astounding 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental issues. Teaching your kids good habits is clearly going to help in more ways than one. (4)
Sweet snacks, candy, and ice cream usually contain high quantities of sugar which can cause oral health problems for children and adults too.
Sugar is known to be a leading cause of tooth decay which if left unaddressed can lead to cavities.
Get your kids into eating food and drink low in sugar, which can not only help with oral health, but their overall health too.
To incorporate the practice of brushing their teeth into their daily routine you can use a chore/reward system for them.
This can be a simple chart that lists things like dressing for the day, brushing teeth, making breakfast, and making the bed.
You could include whatever chores your child does around the house. When they do this for a whole week, offer them a reward.
Teaching your children good oral hygiene now can set them up to practice better habits when they’re older.
It’s very important for kids to take care of their teeth to avoid any cavities or tooth decay.
To avoid costly visits to the dentist, take them to regular checkups; encourage them at home to brush, floss, and eat well; and most importantly, lead by example and show your children how important it is to take care of their teeth.
- “Baby Teeth - American Dental Association,” Source: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/baby-teeth
- “Children's Oral Health,” Source: https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html
- “Oral health,” Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/oral-health
- “The Impact of Oral Disease,” Source: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/dental/impact_oral_health
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