Early childhood cavities, which include tooth decay in children younger than six years old, is the most common chronic disease in children, according to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry. Teaching children how to properly care for their teeth, gums, and mouth from an early age can help ward off oral disease and create a foundation for a healthy smile for life. Here are five tips to help teach your children proper oral hygiene.
1. Start Early and Be Consistent
Children learn daily routines from an early age. Cleaning your child’s teeth should begin as soon as their first tooth emerges, usually between 6 and 12 months of age. At first, you’ll need to help your little one brush and floss. However, as your child gains more skill and coordination, you can allow him or her to brush with your supervision.
If your child is resistant to brushing, consider brushing as a family. Children like to mimic their parents and siblings. Lead by example to show your child that the entire family is devoted to maintaining a healthy mouth. However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re being consistent and brush every day, at least two times per day.
2. Make It Fun
Kids tend to be more open to learning when parents make it fun. Start by setting a timer and have your child brush for a full two minutes. Today, you can find built-in musical timers on many children’s toothbrushes. You can also choose to play your child’s favorite song or turn on a toothbrushing YouTube video while your child brushes.
Many children are visual learners so pictures of teeth brushing, and other oral health basics, can be useful. Read age-appropriate picture books with your child that show the importance of brushing and flossing daily. You can also have your child practice teeth brushing on a doll or stuffed animal.
3. Encourage Healthy Eating
Children are often drawn to unhealthy snacks, like ice cream, chocolate, and candy. Unfortunately, these sugary treats can wreak havoc on their oral health. When the sugars found in these types of foods interact with the natural bacteria in the mouth, they can create acids that attack tooth enamel and contribute to decay.
Have a discussion with your kids about the importance of good nutrition for both oral health and general health. Be a role model for healthy eating and have regular family meals that contain options from every food group. Children are also more likely to eat food that they make themselves so get your kids involved safely with meal preparation.
4. Create a Reward System
It can be difficult to motivate young children to brush and floss daily without some incentive. Creating a reward system may do the trick. Make a simple reward chart, similar to a chore chart, in which you place a sticker each day that your child remembers to brush and floss.
Once your child has reached a specified number of stickers, you can reward him or her with a special treat, activity, or outing. Over time, your child will begin to remember to brush and floss without reminders. Having something to look forward to for a job well done will encourage your child to maintain a healthy smile.
5. Bring Your Child for Regular Checkups
One of the best things that parents can do to instill proper oral health habits in children is to choose a quality pediatric dentist. Parents and pediatric dentistry offices work together to help children become comfortable caring for their teeth and educate them on how to properly brush and floss.
Children should visit a Ponte Vedra dentist approximately every six months for an exam and cleaning. During this team, the pediatric dentist will evaluate your child’s brushing and flossing and offer tips on how to improve. This is also a great time to address any questions or concerns you may have about your child’s oral health.
Request an Appointment Today
At Ponte Vedra Pediatric Dentistry, we offer full-service dental care for your children. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our dental and orthodontic services.