by Aarti Kapur Singh
Here are 6 tips for teaching kids healthy dental habits
One of the most important things we can teach our children is how to take care of their health. Oral health is one of them. Teaching kids healthy dental habits can be an awesome experience, and not difficult at all if you can make the learning full of fun. And this means there should be creative ideas that take away the ‘chore’ out of dental health.
Once your baby grins that smile with the first two teeth at you, add brushing to your parental responsibilities. Your child will need your help to properly clean his teeth till he is big enough to do it – around maybe six or seven years.
Here are 6 tips for teaching kids healthy dental habits…
1. Start early:
Even before those pearly whites pop through, it’s a good idea to start introducing a soft bristle or rubber toothbrush. Let them chew on the brush when they’re starting to teethe, and gently rub a soft-bristled and age-appropriate toothbrush over gums with water. Stay away from fluoride toothpaste because you don’t want them to swallow it. Don’t use a washcloth or gauze because this causes confusion with your tot about the proper way to brush. Start with a toothbrush from the start to ease into full brushing when teeth come in. Most parents skip one key part of dental health – flossing. While brushing is the main way to combat cavities and bacteria, flossing between tiny teeth is what gets the food and plaque out of hard to reach places a toothbrush can’t. When food and bacterial plaque settles between teeth and isn’t removed by flossing, this can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and halitosis – all completely preventable when you have healthy dental habits – and starts when your child is a tot. While a flossing thread may be difficult for kids to maneuver, try a handheld flosser – let them use it under supervision once they are older than four.
2. Let them choose:
When your toddler and children are older, take them to the store to choose his own toothbrush, toothpaste and flossing pick. While you may think a Barbie or Mickey toothbrush looks silly, it could be exactly what your child needs to be inspired to brush twice a day. There are so many options available on the shelves today and I promise they will make you wonder why didn’t you have them while you were growing up. These toothbrushes or even pastes that come out of cute little dispensers make tooth cleaning fun and enjoyable for children while establishing healthy dental-care habits at an early age. Make dental care supplies a fun gift that they are excited to use. While shopping for toothpaste, see if there are any quality toothpaste in kid-friendly flavors. Ask your children about which one your family should test first and include their ideas in the decision-making process.
3. The case for electric toothbrushes:
There are a couple of advantages for getting your kids electric toothbrushes over manual ones. First, they’re just more fun. And anything you can do to make brushing more fun will encourage kids to do it regularly. But an electric toothbrush also has practical advantages. Little, developing hands don’t work so well, and an electric toothbrush boosts the amount of work those bristles can do on those tiny teeth. Electronic, battery-powered toothbrushes are great at gently removing plaque from the teeth and gums and make the brushing experience fun.
4. Create a fun routine:
All habits are formed by doing them repeatedly. Brushing and flossing need to be a part of your morning and bedtime routine; stick to the same time and going in an unchanged order each time. Brushing and flossing shouldn’t be an afterthought you throw in when you’re running out of the house for school or at different times in the evening. Healthy dental habits need to be a daily part of your day, no matter how busy your schedule. While reinforcing the idea, have fun with your routine so your child doesn’t associate teeth brushing and flossing as a chore. Sing a fun song for two minutes while you brush, count teeth while you floss or create a fun jingle together. Try playing a song (or part of a song) while they brush their teeth and teach them to stop only when it is over. This will make the time pass quickly, and they will be more likely to brush for an adequate length of time. Turn your morning and bedtime dental routine into a family activity. When you’re standing together in the bathroom, brush, and floss together.
5. Set an example:
As a parent, you know your kids are going to follow whatever examples you set. Before your kids start using a toothbrush, the best thing you can do is brush your own teeth in front of them every morning and night. This subliminal message lets your child see brushing and flossing is something you do every day, twice a day, without fail. It is good to demonstrate your own healthy dental care habits to set a positive example for your children. Make sure they see you flossing and brushing your teeth regularly so they will be inspired to develop the same good habits.
6. Let them do it on their own:
Another way to prevent dental hygiene routine seem like another chore is to try and avoid instructing them too much and let them have some creative liberties while cleaning their teeth. As your child gets older and doesn’t need your assistance to brush – or begins to insist on doing it themselves – it’s OK to let them take the reins here and there. Just be sure to check their teeth for any spots they’ve missed. Have the kids stand in front of a mirror and watch themselves, while you brush their teeth for them – or even your own. Try to stand behind them so they can see their mouths as the toothbrush moves around. Point out where and how you’re brushing and talk your way through proper flossing so they can see and hear how to brush and floss.
The Basics of Brushing
- Brush twice a day (at least.)
- Limit snacks, sugary foods and drinks throughout the day in between brushing times.
- Avoid fluoride toothpaste before the age of two or until your child learns how to spit and won’t swallow the toothpaste.
- Use a soft-bristle toothbrush; harder bristle toothbrushes are too abrasive for little kid’s mouths.
- Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, or sooner if the bristles are worn out and frayed.
- It’s a good idea to replace toothbrushes after your child has a cold or gets the flu so you don’t reintroduce those germs.
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