Oral hygiene is important at any age. You should take your infant for their first general dentistry appointment as soon as their first tooth sprouts, according to Colgate. Once your children are no longer babies, they’ll have to learn how to brush their teeth on their own, but it can be tough to get them into good brushing habits. Don’t worry, you can help your child develop and maintain good teeth-brushing habits.
Your children are still learning about the world, including how to take care of their bodies. To get your child to brush their teeth more often, explain why brushing is important to maintain good oral hygiene. You can explain the concept of tooth decay by comparing it to something else a child would recognize, like a rotting apple.
Alternatively, you can explain the benefits of having a healthy smile, like comfortably chewing certain foods, and how having clean teeth can help them make friends or take nice school photos. Use colorful visuals, such as a chart showing how often your child needs to brush their teeth and when they should do it. Show them your teeth or other examples of healthy teeth. Children love animals, so you can also show photos of animals with healthy teeth. It’s a good time to go to the bookstore and buy age-appropriate books on oral hygiene.
You can go out of your way to explain things to your child, but it may fall on deaf ears without actions to model. Remember, children are like sponges soaking up everything you say and do, including how well you practice oral hygiene. You may try brushing your teeth at the same time as your child, so they have good modeled behavior. Show your child that you care about oral hygiene and your own teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing. Other good habits, such as eating healthy snacks and drinking more water to rinse away food particles can make a difference.
Brushing teeth may be a chore for your child, so make it more fun. If your child hesitates to begin brushing, you can incorporate a warm-up routine like a song or silly dance. Children love stickers, so you can incorporate that into a reward system that encourages them to brush their teeth. You can give them points or a special treat after they have brushed for the required time. We all know children love games, so why not turn brush time into a game session? One game can be “the tooth fairy”, where you pretend to be the tooth fairy and take away your child’s teeth when they don’t brush them. According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth for two minutes, two times a day. Why not create a time-based game? This game could be the “toothbrush challenge,”, where you set a timer for two minutes and have your child brush their teeth as fast as they can.
The right toothbrush and toothpaste can make all the difference in your little one’s dental habits. Replace their toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. When selecting a brush, pick one your child likes and can handle comfortably. If your child is younger, you can opt for an electric toothbrush with a timer and music to help make brushing more fun. Don’t forget about colors and characters! You can buy a toothbrush with their favorite character on it. Then every morning and evening you can tell them, “It’s time to brush our teeth with (name of character)”.
When it comes to toothpaste, look for one with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance and also appeals to your child. There are kinds of toothpaste designed for kids in fun flavors, like bubble gum or strawberry. You can also purchase fluoride-free toothpaste if your child has a sensitivity to it. Guide them when brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.
Brushing habits are more likely to stick if you create a routine and stick to it. Pick times that work best for your family, like brushing in the morning and before bed. You may also want to brush after snacks or meals, so your child gets in the habit of brushing their teeth every time they eat. To make things easier, you can have a visible schedule that shows when your child should brush their teeth, or even write down the steps of brushing and post it in a visible place. You can also use a timer to show them how long they should brush their teeth.
Did you know you can use travel toothbrushes even when you’re not on a trip? You can brush at work, and the kids can brush at school. Make it a regular item in your family’s bag when you go out, so your child never has to be without proper oral hygiene. Carry toothpaste with fluoride and floss in the same bag, and ensure your child knows how to use it.
A typical mascot is an animal, person, or object representing a group of people. A dental mascot is something your child can relate to and bond with; for instance, a tooth mascot. It can be a stuffed animal or even an action figure that goes on adventures with your child, like brushing trips. This makes the activity of brushing teeth fun, and your child will look forward to it. You can even find pictures of celebrities with their teeth showing and make these your child’s dental mascots. When you and your child are watching a show or movie, ask them to point out the people who look like they brush their teeth every day.
Children often look up to their older siblings, so it’s a good idea to make brushing teeth fun for both kids. The older child can be the oral care role model and show the younger one how it’s done. You can also make brushing your teeth a family activity. Have your child brush first, then their older siblings, and finally you. You can also do so in reverse order. This group activity teaches them that brushing their teeth is a normal and fun time for everyone in the house.
Brushing your teeth is just one of the important steps to take for good oral hygiene. Other activities include flossing, gargling, and using mouthwash. These activities don’t take the place of tooth brushing but are in addition to it. Like brushing, you can make these activities fun by incorporating them into a game. For example, you can have your child write down how many times they gargled and try to beat the record. When it comes to mouthwash, be careful with full-strength mouthwash, especially for younger children. You can buy milder mouthwashes that are designed specifically for young kids.
Did you know there are chewable tablets that can reveal plaque? These tablets are safe for kids and can help your child understand how plaque affects their teeth. Give them one of the tablets and have them chew it in their mouth for a few seconds. Once they spit it out, the plaque will be a bright color. So you both can see where plaque has built up on their teeth. This visual will help them understand why brushing is important and how it can help them prevent plaque buildup. Since children love bright colors, it’s an effective way to show them the importance of brushing.
Rewards are a great way to encourage good brushing habits. Rewards don’t have to be tangible things, but can also be verbal or even virtual rewards. For instance, give your child a sticker every time they brush their teeth without reminders. You can also use an app that gives rewards and points for brushing your teeth and being consistent with your routine. If your child has a Piggy Bank, you can add a penny or two each time they brush their teeth without reminders. It’ll motivate them to keep up the good habits. Most importantly, always tell them,l “Good job!” and “I’m proud of you!”
What do eating habits have to do with learning how to brush? A lot. Eating sugary snacks and drinks between meals can damage teeth and lead to cavities. Ensure your child has healthy meals and snacks, and limit the sugary drinks. Good food will decrease the chances of your child having cavities or gum disease in the future. Try to explain the correlation between the types of food they eat and how it affects how often they need to clean their teeth. Even healthy items like strawberries, kiwi, or raspberries have tiny bits that can get stuck between teeth and cause plaque buildup.
Don’t overlook the importance of regular general dentistry checkups. Besides brushing your teeth twice a day, visits to the dentist are important for proper oral hygiene. The dentist can provide professional cleaning and checkups to make sure there are no cavities or gum disease present. They can also advise on how to better care for your child’s oral health. If your child is scared or anxious about going to the dentist, you can talk to them about it, and you can even schedule an appointment for the two of you.
When your children go to the dentist, they’re now in the hands of a professional who can directly show them how to brush their teeth properly. They can show them the correct brush strokes and which areas to focus on. Its’ also a good opportunity to ask questions about oral problems your child may have. Finally, the dentist can also give tips on how to make tooth brushing more enjoyable. Family and pediatric dental offices often have environments that are welcoming to children. So if your little one is hesitant about regular brushing or seeing a dentist, choosing the right one can make all the difference.
Finding the right dentist is vital for you and your child. If possible, ask around and see if anyone can recommend a pediatric or family dentist. However, many general dentistry offices also have experience with children. When you go in for a consultation, ask about their experience dealing with young patients and how they make appointments comfortable for them.
You can also look online for reviews and ratings of local dental offices. Once you select a dentist, schedule an appointment for your child to become familiar with the environment and staff. You can even take your child earlier for a “happy visit” to meet the dentist, look at their office, and get comfortable with the process.
Last but not least, remember to listen to your children and give them a choice in the above steps as much as possible Let them pick out their own toothbrushes. Don’t assume they will like mint toothpaste so try to find flavors that cater to your child’s tastes (like bubblegum or watermelon). You can also let them pick out their own floss. If they don’t like the traditional waxed floss, there are flavored and even disposable options. The more choices you give your child in the tooth-brushing process, the more likely they are to take ownership of it.
As soon as possible, talk to your children about the importance of proper oral hygiene and explain why it’s important. By investing in their oral health, you’re helping ensure they stay healthy now and into adulthood. With the right approach and guidance, your children can get into the habit of brushing their teeth regularly and thoroughly. As you prepare your child for a lifetime of healthy teeth, reach out to the right dental professionals. We’re your local general dentistry experts and look forward to helping your child learn good brushing habits today!