You already know it is important for your child to brush and floss regularly. But did you know that tooth decay is the leading chronic childhood disease?
In fact, early childhood caries – such as decayed teeth, missing or loose teeth from decay or fillings by age six – are four times more common than childhood obesity, five times more common than asthma and 20 times more common than juvenile diabetes.
So how do you motivate your kids to develop good dental hygiene habits and avoid the many health risks that come with tooth decay?
Let’s look at three simple steps that’ll make regular oral hygiene a happy experience for your little ones!
#1: Let Your Child Choose Their Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Take your kids to the store to pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. They will get a sense of pride in having their own special kids’ dental care tools and in taking ownership of their own oral hygiene. Children look forward to brushing and flossing when they are using items that they chose for themselves!
- Does your child have a favorite cartoon character, superhero, color or design pattern? Many kids’ toothbrushes come with these themes
- An electric toothbrush for kids can also add a “cool” factor that adds appeals
- Make sure your child’s toothbrush has soft bristles and a handle that is easy for little hands to grip comfortably
- You and your child should both change toothbrushes 3 to 4 times a year
Sometimes adult toothpaste doesn’t taste great to kids. If that is the case with your child, they can get a children’s toothpaste that comes in a variety of fun flavors such as strawberry, watermelon or bubble gum. That makes brushing less “icky” and more enjoyable. Just make sure your child’s toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
#2: Let Brushing Time Be Play Time
Good dental hygiene is serious business but there’s no reason not to add a little fun into the mix!
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children brush their teeth for about 2 minutes twice each day. How do you make sure your kids follow that suggestion?
- Download a toothbrushing app. Many come with a helpful “toothbrush timer” for kids. When the time is up the app makes a funny sound
- Let your child listen to his or her favorite music while brushing
- Make up your own two-minute song, poem or story about toothbrushing to make the time pass more quickly
- Look for books and videos that use kid-friendly stories to illustrate the importance of good dental hygiene
Another popular activity for teaching children to brush their teeth is to let them earn rewards for brushing and flossing every day. Whether it’s putting gold stars on a poster or writing check marks on a toothbrushing chart, your kids will have fun tracking their progress and enjoying a small reward such as a fun outing or small toy for brushing and flossing regularly.
You may also consider a fun activity reserved for after your child visits the dentist. Many children get anxious about getting their teeth cleaned but the trip may be easier if they can look forward to watching a movie or playing at the park afterwards.
#3: Make Oral Care a Family Affair
Like so many other things, kids learn the correct way to brush your teeth by imitating you and others around them. This is especially true for toddlers who are just beginning to learn about oral hygiene.
Whenever possible, let your kids brush their teeth while you brush yours. It will give you some quality time together for talking, laughing, telling stories and singing songs.
It also gives you a great chance to show them how to brush and floss correctly by demonstrating your technique. Make sure they do not brush too hard and that they remember those easy-to-ignore areas such as the back molars and under the gums.
Be sure to explain everything in an age appropriate way. Young children may not relate to terminology like “gingivitis” or “periodontal disease.” Instead, talk about things that appeal to kids, like the desire for a healthy smile and avoiding the pain of a toothache.
Also, remember to teach your kids to floss once each day. Kids should start flossing once their teeth are too close together for toothbrush bristles to fit between them. You can brush up on your own flossing technique while you teach it to your kids:
- Wind about 18 inches of floss around middle fingers
- Pinch floss between thumb and index finger
- Use a clean piece of floss for each tooth
Do you have questions or concerns about your child’s oral health? Is it time for them to visit the dentist? If so, contact us at Excel Dental for an appointment. Drs. Matthews and Davis look forward to helping your son or daughter as they begin a lifetime of good oral care habits.