The oral health habits we stick with tend to be those established when we are young. One of the most important of these is good oral health care. When introduced the right way to brushing, flossing, and taking good general care of their mouths, kids can find it to be fun and rewarding rather than a chore.
Begin at birth
Even before a baby has teeth, you should gently clean their gums with moist gauze or a washcloth. As soon as the first tooth appears, you should begin brushing it for your child.
“Funny face” awareness
Help kids develop an awareness of the cleanliness of their teeth by having them make funny open-mouth faces in front of the mirror. Having a good laugh while also noticing food particles between the teeth is a real win-win.
At around age 3, children can begin taking responsibility for their own oral care to a degree. However, expecting a child to handle things entirely on their own without a transition period is a recipe for resentment and failure. Develop a self-directed brushing routine gradually. Slowly transfer responsibility for this activity from you to them, explaining that their increasing independence in this area is a reward for doing such a great job!
Model the right behavior
Your kids look up to you (literally) as you brush and floss. Invite them to watch you happily tend to your own oral care. When you’ve finished, be sure to comment on how fresh and clean your mouth feels and how dazzling your smile is.
Explain the importance of proper nutrition
Be sure your kids understand that a healthy mouth isn’t all about brushing and flossing. Eating natural, healthy foods and drinking plenty of water (especially in place of sugary juices or soda) plays a major role in oral health. Here again, model this behavior by eating and drinking the right things yourself. And pay special attention to food and drink on vacations and even short road trips. We often “cheat” on good nutrition at these times, and that practice can teach children to associate fun with unhealthy foods.
Turn dental visits into an exciting adventure
When you talk about dentist visits—yours or your kids’—always do so in very positive terms. Yes, there are procedures that aren’t entirely enjoyable, but focus on the positive aspects early on to help prevent any fear or reluctance from developing. And see your dentist regularly so kids understand that this is a normal, healthy routine.
Get a “second opinion”
Share positive news about your kids’ dental visits with family and friends—and have them provide encouraging feedback. “Did you have any cavities?” is a common question but one that should be avoided for obvious reasons.
Positive oral health habits are very easy to establish if approached in a fun and consistent way. And the practices you help your kids perfect today, will serve them well for a lifetime. Get them on the right track by scheduling their annual cleaning or dental needs at University Dental.