Teaching Your Children to Take Care of Their Teeth
One of the most important aspects of parenting is teaching your children how to take care of themselves. You teach them to make good choices so that they can be healthy. In the beginning, you do a task for them until they can do it themselves. Then you supervise their efforts until you trust that they are competent and consistent in accomplishing the task. At that point, you can give them the independence to take care of themselves without your intervention.
As with all issues in child development, every child grows and matures at his or her own unique pace. Rather than looking for your child to perform certain tasks at a certain age, use milestones to tell you when it is time to move from demonstration to supervision and from supervision to delegation of independence.
In dentistry, our most common example of using a milestone is this: your child should not brush his teeth alone until he can easily tie his own shoes.
In order to set the right expectations for your child and oral hygiene, start early.
How early? As soon as the first tooth appears in your baby’s mouth!
Begin brushing each tooth with an infant toothbrush or a soft washcloth. Cleaning your child’s teeth is something he or she should expect as part of your daily routine. The earlier you start, the easier it is for the child to accept. The earlier you begin brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, the less likely they are to fight you and resist the process.
Easy Oral Hygiene Techniques:
One of the easiest ways to brush and floss a child’s teeth is to sit cross-legged on the floor and have the child lay down with his head in your lap. You should be able to look straight down into the child’s open mouth. Using a very small amount of fluoride-containing toothpaste and NO water, gently brush every exposed surface of his teeth.
An alternative technique is to have your child stand on a small stool so that their head is just above your waist. With both of you facing the bathroom mirror, stand behind the child and have her look up and rest her head against your stomach. Again, you should be able to look straight down into the child’s mouth and visualize all of the teeth.
Use either of these positions to floss any of your child’s teeth that touch each other. Teeth with small gaps do not have to be flossed.
Make It Fun
While you are brushing or flossing, it helps to count or sing a song to entertain and/or distract the child. The American Dental Association has several fun tooth brushing songs here.
If you have multiple children, you can make the oral hygiene routine your special one-on-one time with each child.
With multiple children, games or competitions can make it fun. Use plaque disclosing tablets to have a contest of who does the best job brushing.
Set a Good Example
Brush and floss your own teeth in front of your children as often as possible. Show them that it is a normal part of your bedtime routine. Kids are much better at following examples than strictly doing as they are told.
It is important to teach your children to have an overall attitude toward oral hygiene that is positive and healthy. One of the best and easiest ways to train this attitude is to model it in your actions and attitudes toward your own oral hygiene.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If your children see that you do not value your own oral hygiene, they will not believe that it is important for them either.
Don’t Make It Optional
Make every effort to never miss brushing and flossing your child’s teeth. It is not optional. Do not ever give your child the impression that they have a choice on whether or not to brush before bedtime.
The problems that occur from improper oral hygiene in a child can be serious. They can also be prevented with good oral hygiene and good food and drink choices.
Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or 605-928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule a consultation with one of our fabulous dental hygienists. She will show you tips and techniques on brushing and flossing your child's teeth as easily as possible.