Modeling good oral hygiene practices is one of a parent’s responsibilities. Children who do not practice proper oral hygiene may experience pain, gum problems, and cavities. These problems are exacerbated by sugary foods and drinks. However, there are many good ways to teach your children about oral health. Dr. Frank Roach, an Atlanta dentist, explains how parents can teach their children this important skill.
1. Start Early
Good oral hygiene begins long before the eruption of the first tooth. For dental health, it is best not to let your child sleep with a bottle of milk or juice. It is recommended that parents clean their child’s gums after they bottle feed or breastfeed. Gently massage their gums with a moistened washcloth after each feeding. Once the first tooth has erupted, parents need to start brushing.
2. Make it Fun
Some children are reluctant to practice good oral hygiene because they feel that it is a chore. Frank Roach Dentist believes it is best to encourage your children to think of tooth brushing and flossing as fun activities. Avoid scaring younger children by telling them they will get cavities if they do not brush, but you will need to be firm and remind older children of the consequences of their actions.
Ways to make tooth brushing fun include getting specially themed or battery-powered toothbrushes and picking out their own child-appropriate fluoride toothpaste. Some parents of young children sing a song or play a special game during or after tooth brushing. Children should be encouraged to brush for two minutes.
3. Make the Connection
Just as parents talk about eating a proper diet to keep children’s bodies healthy, they need to talk about oral health. Children should be taught which foods are good for oral health, like dairy products, and which can be bad, like juices, sticky candy, and products containing a lot of acid like sour candy. Children whose parents’ model healthy choices are more likely to choose these foods themselves.
4. Model Good Habits
If a child sees their parents brushing and flossing twice a day, they are more likely to follow through with these activities on their own. Parents need to be good role models for their children, in this area as well as many others. At the same time, parents should not be punitive about children’s oral health, or they may develop fears or anxieties about dental care or about going to the dentist.
5. Build Trust
It is important for young children to build a sense of trust with dental professionals. A pediatric dentist, or any dentist with a great deal of experience with children, is the best choice. Children who have regular dental care when they are young grow up to have fewer cavities and enjoy better dental health for their whole lives.
6. Give Instruction
Children need to be taught to brush and floss. It is not enough to give them the tools and then to expect them to get results. Children should be helped with tooth brushing until they are capable of doing it themselves, and they need to be instructed how to floss properly.
7. Give Rewards
If a child is having trouble sticking to a schedule for their oral care, it does not hurt to provide positive reinforcement. Keep a chart of how often children have brushed or flossed their teeth and provide a reward if they have been high achievers. Rather than food or toys, a reward for a child can be as simple as an outing with a parent.
8. Put Fears at Rest
Talking with your children about dental health is an important step. You should encourage your child to come to you if they have any questions or concerns about their dental health. Too many families fail to follow their dentists’ instructions about tooth and gum care, and they end up needing expensive and time-consuming treatment.
Your children should not fear dentists, but it is understandable that some children are anxious. Help to set these children’s fears to rest by role-playing dentist and patient and “brushing” stuffed animals’ teeth.
9. Understanding Oral Health
Parents should educate themselves about the basics of oral health. When parents are able to understand dental treatment and model the correct behaviors, they are far more likely to encourage good oral health. As early as possible, get your children into the habit of brushing and flossing. Keep brushing and flossing their teeth for them until you are confident that they can manage on their own.
Fostering Good Health
Teaching proper oral care is just as important as good nutrition and visiting the pediatrician regularly. Dentists understand the meaning of oral health when it relates to overall health. Focusing on the positive reinforcement of good dental habits is the best way to encourage children to follow their treatment plans. Dr. Frank Roach believes that good oral health in childhood leads to beautiful, healthy adult smiles.