Parenting can sometimes feel like a never-ending uphill battle, especially when you are trying to guide young developing minds to become self-sufficient little humans who can take care of their own teeth. Sometimes kids will rebel, or they don’t understand the importance of brushing their teeth before bed after a day of snacking and drinking fruit juice. Trying to appeal to toddlers rationally with explanations doesn’t always seem to do the trick, so what else does a parent have in their arsenal? Lead by example. Children are like little sponges that observe and often imitate things they see. If your child sees you taking good care of your teeth, it’s the first and most important step in helping them develop good oral habits, but it certainly doesn’t end there. There are several other tips and tricks to keep in mind when raising your kids and teaching them good oral hygiene.
Stick to a Schedule
Most children go through similar milestones at certain ages which are helpful for creating a dental schedule! For the first six months of your child’s life, their teeth are just beginning to develop inside of their gums. This means it’s essential to provide them with a healthy balanced diet in order to have the proper development occur.
As their first teeth begin to grow, seeing a pediatric dentist is vital in making sure everything is going as it should. Initial screening can also help get your infant used to seeing a dentist early on, which will make things easier as they start growing up. Try to plan visits every six months or so, especially once their primary teeth begin to grow in.
Catching any abnormalities early on can help prevent major issues in the future so make sure you don’t let too much time pass between appointments. At about six years old, when permanent teeth start coming in, it’s important to see a dentist for regular checkups to ensure their bite pattern is stable.
After six years of age, your child should be brushing their own teeth, but they also may be missing important spots or are having difficulty with flossing. Seeing a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups will ensure that no plaque or decay gets out of control. Also, dentists can assist children in learning what spots they are missing when brushing and flossing to make sure they improve their technique.
Keep extra oral hygiene products readily available at home. Stock up on brushes, floss, mouthwash, and other supplies that your child may need as they become more independent in taking care of their teeth. Some kids may find the process of picking a new toothbrush quite fun, and with the hundreds of colorful characterized options on the market, they have plenty to choose from. Also, consider introducing them to electric toothbrushes now that they are an affordable option and no longer a luxury as they were quite some time ago. There are child-sized models that range from $10-$20 and available at grocery stores. No matter what kind of brush your child uses, make sure it’s always in good shape as worn down brushes can actually hard tooth enamel when used for too long.
There are tons of resources to help illustrate and explain oral hygiene to your child. Now that we can easily find things on the internet get them started with cartoons and kid-friendly shows that are oriented around brushing teeth and keeping mouths healthy. There are plenty of books that you can read together that discuss oral health and why it’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day. This can help instill the importance of taking care of their teeth from an early age.
Make a Chart
Just like in school, it’s helpful for kids to learn how to track their progress. This is a skill that will become useful later in life, but it’s also helpful for staying on top of their mouth health! You can create these charts or buy pre-made ones that are available online and in children’s stores. At the end of a week or month, there can be prizes awarded if your child has flossed every day, and completed their tooth-brushing routine. This will help keep them motivated to brush and floss while also encouraging them to track their process over time to see how they’ve developed and learned.
There’s really no easier way to monitor your child’s oral hygiene habits than to get involved and do your routine together. This is something many children look forward to, and it’s also a great way to spend some quality time together at the beginning and end of a busy day, especially for working parents. While there are many things that a parent has to do in one day, taking a couple of minutes out of the day to brush and floss your teeth together is definitely worth the effort, for more reasons than one!
Teach them about the Risks
You don’t necessarily need to resort to scare tactics to get your children to care about their teeth, but it doesn’t hurt to warn them of what could happen if they didn’t. It’s important for them to know that brushing isn’t important just because you told them to do it, and that not taking care of their oral health could lead to painful and serious health problems down the line. Explain to them that not taking care of their teeth can cause stinky breath, rotten teeth, and more procedures at the dentist. However, you don’t want to cause them to be fearful of their first dental visit or future checkups. Ensure them that taking good care of their teeth will lead to quicker and more positive experiences.
Teaching your children how to properly take care of their teeth is an important step to take that will save both you and your children much grief down the line. No one wants to go through lengthy dental procedures if they can avoid them. Good oral health is a part of good overall health, and it’s important to instill these habits early on to set them up to succeed.