Dental hygiene is important for people of all ages, but it’s always good to start your children young. Most infant’s first teeth grow in between 4 and 6 months of age. Once your baby has teeth, the importance of dental hygiene begins. You can start by simply rinsing your baby’s teeth with water and then upgrading to using toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Once your child reaches the age of 3, you can introduce fluoride toothpaste.
But how can you make this fun for your child? Some kids dread brushing their teeth and parents dread the process. Here are a few tips and tricks for making dental hygiene fun!
Do It Together
Children love imitating their parents, especially when it’s a task that only “grown ups” do. Have you ever seen a young boy pretending to shave with his father in the mirror? Or a daughter pretending to apply make-up or wanting her nails painted? It’s completely natural for a child to idolize their parents and want to feel mature beyond their years. Use this to your advantage when it comes to dental hygiene.
Make brushing and flossing something that you do together. In the morning before you leave the house and at night before bed, you can visit the bathroom together for your daily dental health check. Stand beside one another and look in the mirror as you brush. Take turns spitting into the sink and let your little one turn on and off the faucet. Show your child how to properly hold floss and gently work it in between their teeth. They’ll feel so independent and mature when they realize they’re doing something that mommy and daddy do too!
Use Tasty Toothpaste
Though adults love a nice, minty-fresh mouth, most kids prefer either a fruity or bubble-gum flavored toothpaste. So, let them choose! The great thing about children’s toothpaste is that it comes in awesome flavors, colors and the tubes are usually decorated with some of their favorite cartoon characters.
Make a little trip out of it. Take your child to the grocery store or local pharmacy and let them pick out their own toothpaste and toothbrush. Maybe even buy a small rinse cup for them to use and keep near the sink. This will add to their excitement about the toothbrushing process and also help them to feel independent. They are being given a choice and that’s always empowering to kids.
Celebrate Dental Month
Did you know that there is an entire month dedicated to dental health and hygiene? What a great opportunity to discuss this with your kids. If your child is enrolled in public school or daycare, they’ll likely cover this month as well.
February is dental health month and the perfect time to talk about visiting the dentist, what foods and drinks are best for our teeth, the right times to brush, and the right way to brush. You can even introduce flossing and fluoride rinsing to your child. You can also try a plaque-disclosing tablet which will help show your child where plaque lives on their teeth. It’s a great visual for showing the importance of proper brushing.
Set a Timer
Kids work well with a schedule and routine. Timers are a great tool for keeping kids on track with tasks. Timers are used for all sorts of things like clean-up time, screen time, hand washing and even teeth brushing. It’s recommended that you brush your teeth for approximately two minutes.
You can set a timer on your cell phone or even purchase an old school egg or kitchen timer. Place it on the vanity in the bathroom and let your child set it for two minutes. Maybe you take turns spitting when the timer is halfway done. Another fun idea is to choose a song that is approximately two-minutes long. Play the song each time you brush your teeth. The more fun brushing is, the more your child will want to do it.
Every mom knows that rewards work. Different moms use different reward systems, whether it’s M&M’s for toilet training or a sticker chart for good behavior, using a reward system for teeth brushing is a great incentive to get kids excited about the process.
Make the reward chart fun! Create a giant mouth using poster board and fill it with teeth. Each time your child brushes or flosses, let them add a sticker to one of the teeth. You can even be silly and add a tongue! Once the mouth is filled, maybe your child receives a small surprise. This type of reward system can also be geared toward making healthy food choices that help promote healthy teeth.
The best foods for promoting healthy teeth include:
Milk, yogurt and cheese
Celery, carrots, broccoli and leafy green vegetables
Nuts and seeds
Some foods to avoid include:
Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, chips)
It’s important to remember that your child can have a little bit of everything, in moderation.
Make it Fun & Keep it Positive
The most important thing to remember when discussing dental hygiene with kids and encouraging proper dental health is to make it a fun and positive experience. When your child views brushing and flossing as a chore, they’re less likely to want to do it.
Buy those fun toothbrushes and toothpaste. Take time to brush and floss together and reinforce the fact that this is what independent, big kids do! Before you know it, brushing their teeth will just become another fun activity that’s part of your child’s day.