Create good habits for your kids’ oral hygiene.

As parents, there are many things we need to teach our children. We actively teach our children to demonstrate respect and manners, how to dress themselves, how to clean up their toys, how to tie their shoes, etc. We also teach by example by showing them how to be respectful and productive members of society. But one of the things we often overlook is how to create positive habits related to their oral hygiene.

Teaching good oral hygiene to our children at a young age is critical in helping the prevention of tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 20% of kids between the ages of five and 11 have at least one untreated decayed tooth. Parents play a critical role in helping kids understand the importance of their oral health. Let’s face it, kids do a great job of dodging responsibilities. It’s not unusual for kids to push the limits related to eating their veggies and respecting their bedtime. Brushing and flossing is yet another one of those tasks kids like to push back on.

For most children, they can start managing some of their own oral care by the age of three. Though this doesn’t mean parents can trust a child to brush and floss on their own, it does mean it is a critical time to reinforce those positive behaviors and daily activities. Effective oral hygiene is essential to help children prevent future dental concerns, including cavities.

5 Tips to Help Your Child With Their Oral Hygiene Routine

Over the years, the Metro East team has made a note of strategies and tactics that have worked for other parents as they have helped to instill the importance of proper oral care in their children. The truth is building a routine now can help set your child up for optimal dental health for life.

1. Make tooth brushing and flossing fun.

One of our favorite strategies for dental care for kids is making the process fun. We encourage parents to teach their children to brush and floss twice a day. Brushing and flossing twice a day can feel redundant after a while. However, when you make the process fun, kids can continue to get excited about it.

Consider buying an assortment of children’s toothbrushes and allowing your child to pick out the toothbrush they want to use for each brushing. This will help eliminate the redundancy. Just remember to replace toothbrushes every three to four months. Another great idea is to let your child brush the teeth of their favorite doll, action figure, or stuffed animal. Though this might require the investment in another toothbrush just for dolly, we guarantee it will be worth the expense.

2. Play the toothbrushing game.

Sesame Street offers a free toothbrushing game for kids that helps encourage positive brushing habits. Your kids may enjoy brushing their teeth along with their favorite Sesame Street characters. Have an iPad or mobile device nearby and let your child brush away.

3. Set a great example by brushing and flossing in front of your child.

Many parents brush and floss their teeth before their kids get up or after their kids go to bed. This means children don’t see their parents leading by example. Even if it means you get an extra toothbrushing session in during the day, adapt your brushing habits so you can brush your teeth with your children until they get to an age where they can be trusted to do it on their own.

4. Read kids’ books about dental care to your kids.

There is no shortage of children’s books about toothbrushing. Pinterest alone offers recommendations from parents on oodles of books. When you read to your children about toothbrushing, you give them two advantages. First, you help to instill a love of reading in your child that can help them throughout their lives. Second, you reinforce how important it is to brush your teeth. The best thing, however, is that reading to your children is a wonderful bonding experience and is a great way to end a busy day.

5. Create a reward system for your children for a toothbrushing job done well.

Children love to be rewarded when they have done something well. Why not create a reward chart for your kids’ oral hygiene, similar to a chore chart? Look for inexpensive prizes or gifts you can keep in a goodie basket. Purchase some gold star stickers (or hearts or cars, whatever it is your child might be into) and create a chart on a sticker board or a large piece of paper. Hang the chart in the bathroom. Allow your child to add a sticker to the chart whenever they finish brushing or flossing their teeth. After your child has reached the goal number you have determined (we recommend a reward for every five, 10, or 15 stars to allow for easy math), allow them to pick a prize from the prize basket.

Teaching kids oral hygiene habits takes perseverance.

Just like anything else you strive to teach your child, it won’t happen overnight. Few children will be able to brush their teeth consistently without supervision until age six. Even after age six, parents will need to check in with their children and help them improve their brushing and flossing techniques.

Creating positive oral hygiene habits in your children will take years. When you lead by example and make it fun, your children will develop habits to last a lifetime. Keep at it, and when in doubt, never hesitate to ask your children’s dentist for help.