How to Teach Children Oral Hygiene
As a parent, one of your most important roles is to prepare your child for life by teaching him healthy habits and life skills. Establishing a good oral hygiene routine from an early age is essential. So what is the best way to teach your child to properly care for his teeth? Allen Daniels, DDS, of Bright Dental in Bright, Indiana, is an expert in pediatric dentistry. According to Dr. Daniels, setting the right example for your child is the most effective way to instill good oral hygiene habits for life. Here Dr. Daniels offers some advice for parents in how to motivate and encourage their kids to take great care of their teeth.
I think the first thing parents have to realize when it comes to teaching life skills like proper oral hygiene is that children are mimics. They want to emulate us in any way they can. They put on our shoes, try on our clothes, and imitate just about everything they see us do.
Because our kids are going to want to do what we do, leading by example is the simplest and most effective way to teach our children how to properly care for their teeth. As most parents quickly find out, making an activity seem fun and exciting is the best way to motivate your child to do it. The same holds true for oral hygiene. Start by showing your child how you brush your teeth and make a point of having him around you while you’re exhibiting good oral hygiene habits. But don’t stop there. Make sure that when he’s around, and you’re going through your normal brushing and flossing routine, you appear to be enjoying it!
To avoid struggles later and to avoid tooth decay, be sure to introduce the idea of a soft toothbrush in your child’s mouth from an early age. If your child doesn’t immediately take to the toothbrush, use a washcloth to clean his teeth and gums initially. Although some kids just aren’t going to like it and will balk at the experience, consistency and a lighthearted atmosphere will go a long way toward eliminating fears about having their teeth cleaned.
Once your child begins to show interest in helping take care of his own teeth, find a way to make it fun. Do your best to make oral hygiene a game, and incorporate a reward of some kind for a job well done. Although most kids do not have the coordination they need to properly care for their teeth on their own until they’re old enough to tie their own shoes, you can begin teaching them to brush and floss much earlier. What’s important is that you supervise the process, offer advice and encouragement on proper technique, and then finish the job for your child so that plaque is not allowed to remain on the teeth.
One great way to help your child improve his oral hygiene skills is to try a plaque-detecting rinse. These products contain a dye that sticks to plaque so children can better focus their brushing efforts. Although these rinses are marketed as pre-brush rinses, they can also be used after brushing to show how your child how well he has brushed his teeth and help you get rid of any remaining plaque. As long as you keep the activity fun, make sure your child’s teeth are properly cleaned every day, and reward his efforts to clean his teeth on his own, you’ll be doing your part to instill healthy oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.
*Disclaimer: The information on this website is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.