8 Ways Oregon Parents Can Teach Their Kids Healthy Dental Habits
There’s nothing better than seeing your child’s face light up with a big, bright smile. As a parent, you want to protect that smile and set your child up for a healthy, confident future. Part of doing that means teaching good dental habits from the start.
Here at Timberhill Dental, we understand from experience that getting your children excited about taking care of their teeth is easier said than done. It’s not impossible though – you just need to get make a plan, have some fun, and stay consistent.
In this month’s blog post, we’ve compiled some practical tips and tricks for teaching your kids healthy dental habits. Take a look and give us a call if you have any questions – we’d love to hear from you.
Choose Child-Friendly Dental Products
One of the best ways to make brushing and flossing fun and enjoyable is to use child-friendly products. Your little ones will think taking care of their teeth is a lot more fun if it means using a toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character on it or holding a colorful flosser.
If your children are old enough, take them to the store and let them pick out a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss on their own. It may be exactly what your kiddos need to get excited about dental care.
Beyond being more fun, using oral care products specifically designed for children will ensure they get the best clean. For example, smaller toothbrush heads make it easier for your kids to properly reach all their teeth.
Try an Electric Toothbrush & Hand-Held Flossers
Many parents swear by child-friendly electric toothbrushes and flossing tools. An electric brush is naturally more fun for kids and is also easier to use. Kid-friendly flossers not only look fun, they’re also easier for little hands to hold onto.
If you’re not sure what type of dental care product is best for your child, just ask! During your child’s check-up appointment, you’ll have lots of time to bring up your questions and get the answers you need.
Make It A Routine
The best way to teach your little ones how to properly care for their teeth is to make brushing and flossing a consistent part of their day. It takes time to develop a habit, so starting at a young age will help set that routine in stone.
Your children should brush their teeth every day after breakfast and again before bed. Of course, you can’t expect your kids to stick to this schedule on their own. You should always observe your child during teeth brushing times, making sure they understand how to hold the toothbrush, brush properly, and spit out toothpaste. Your encouragement and enforcement of this routine is key.
Sing a Song or Tell a Story
Help pass the time and make the brushing and flossing experience more fun by turning on your child’s favorite song or video. Let them know that they can stop brushing once the song is over.
You can also try reading a book to your child with the stipulation that they must be brushing their teeth the whole time. If that’s not cutting it, you can try trading 3 good brush motions for another page of the book.
There are so many variations of these games to try, like making up your own silly tooth-brushing song, incorporating a dance, and more. Adjust your methods based on what your child responds to, or switch them up every time to keep things interesting and engaging!
Use Rewards (Never Threats)
Try using the things your child is naturally excited about to encourage good dental health. One way to do this is by making the entire process a game.
For example, create a brushing chart and allow your child to place a sticker on the chart every time they brush their teeth. After a certain number of stickers, promise something fun like a new toy, their favorite movie, or their favorite meal. The only caveat here is to avoid rewarding with candy or another sugary treat.
Another thing to to avoid is the fear factor. For instance, it’s counter-productive to threaten rotting teeth or scary dental procedures as a way to encourage your kids to care for their teeth. Dental anxiety is a real problem and will make taking your child to the dentist very difficult. Please don’t paint your child’s dental care in a negative light.
Enlist the Help of Fido
One fun way to demonstrate and talk about dental health is to enlist the help of your family dog or, if you’re a pet-free household, your child’s favorite stuffed animal, doll, or action figure.
Brush your dog’s teeth in front of your children to show how everyone in the family needs to keep their teeth clean. Or grab your kiddos favorite toy and make sure to brush its teeth. Then give your child a turn.
Not only is this a fun way to bring up dental health outside of regular brushing time, it helps kids practice holding a toothbrush and shows that this is something everyone needs to do to stay healthy.
Lead By Example
The most important way to teach your children how to take care of their teeth is to lead by example and make caring for your own teeth a priority. If your kids see you regularly brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist, they’ll be more likely to do the same.
Allow your child to watch as you brush and floss your own teeth. If your child still needs hands-on help with brushing but doesn’t like the idea of you helping, try trading on and off. For instance, you brush their teeth, and then they brush yours.
Choose the Right Dentist
Your child should start going to the dentist around 6 months after teething starts. From there, most children should visit the dentist every 6 months. These biannual dental checkups and cleanings are important for instilling good dental health practices in your child from the very start.
Do your best to make these dental visits a positive experience by staying calm about the experience and avoiding scary words when describing the visit (like needles or shot). Most importantly, make sure you choose a dentist focused on prevention, gentle with children, and who will make the experience fun.
Ultimately, the methods you use to teach good dental health to your children will depend on their age, but incorporating play and fun into these lessons and partnering with a child-friendly dentist is always the best bet.
Teaching Good Dental Health Starts Now
Do you feel better equipped to teach good dental habits to your children?